North Korea asks for COVID-19 vaccines from international alliance: report
North Korean officials have submitted an application to receive the coronavirus vaccine from an organization aiding vaccine distribution in low-income nations, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The hermit nation has also inquired about obtaining vaccines with several European embassies, according to the newspaper.
The vaccines alliance, Gavi, said 86 of 92 countries eligible for its assistance for lower-income nations have filed applications. The Covax Advance Market Commitment Program has secured about 1.3 billion vaccine doses, with a goal of inoculating as much as 20 percent of the population by year’s end.
While Gavi would not comment on North Korea’s application, a spokesperson told the Journal it is currently conducting assessments of individual nations’ requests with a goal of providing a detailed update in the early months of the year.
North Korea’s official numbers state that it has no cases of the virus, but nearly 12,000 people have undergone testing up to Dec. 17 and tens of thousands have quarantined, according to the newspaper, citing the World Health Organization.
Under international sanctions, North Korea is barred from importing computers and goods made from metal, leaving the nation particularly vulnerable to health care-related crises.
The country’s claims of no coronavirus infections have been met with broad skepticism globally, while Kim Yo Jong, the sister of chairman Kim Jong Un, has hit back at South Korean officials for calling the claims “hard to believe.”
In the meantime, North Korea has required face masks for all citizens and banned smoking in public, citing the “high risk of contracting the malignant virus,” according to the newspaper.