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Vaccine alliance working with North Korea on COVID-19, report says

North Korea is cooperating with international vaccine alliance Gavi on inoculations, a Gavi  representative said Wednesday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
North Korea is cooperating with international vaccine alliance Gavi on inoculations, a Gavi  representative said Wednesday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

June 2 (UPI) -- A global health partnership said it is working with North Korea to supply COVID-19 vaccines.

Gavi, an international vaccine alliance that works to improve immunization in low-income countries, said talks are ongoing with Pyongyang, Voice of America's Korean service reported Wednesday.

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"Work is ongoing and discussions continue with [North Korea]," a Gavi representative said. "As we get closer to a potential delivery, we'll be able to share more information on timetables."

Gavi is the co-leader of COVAX, the World Health Organization facility for promoting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for low-income countries. In January, North Korea reportedly filed an application for COVID-19 vaccines with Gavi despite declaring itself free of the novel coronavirus.

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North Korea is expected to import 1,704,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to COVAX. Doses to be delivered to North Korea also have been adjusted down from an original 1,992,000 from the Serum Institute of India.

A Gavi representative previously told VOA that reports suggesting North Korea was not working with international partners on COVID-19 were not true.

"From the perspective of COVAX and Gavi, the [North Korean] government is not refusing to cooperate on the response for the COVID-19 pandemic," Gavi said in May.

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"Currently [North Korea's] Ministry of Public Health is working on technical aspects and the operationalization of the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan."

Last month, reports suggested North Korea was refusing to allow international health workers to monitor vaccine distribution in the country.

South Korea said Tuesday it is aware of "consultations" between Pyongyang and COVAX.

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Seoul's unification ministry said vaccination plans and a schedule for delivery to North Korea is "expected to be delayed" because of stalled talks between Pyongyang and international agencies, Yonhap reported Wednesday.

North Korea has reported zero COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

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