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North Korea COVID-19 vaccines face obstacles to delivery, UNICEF says

Deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea have been delayed due to the nation’s policies, according to a new press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea have been delayed due to the nation’s policies, according to a new press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 5 (UPI) -- COVID-19 vaccines for North Korea are being delayed because the Kim Jong Un regime has not completed requirements for their deployment, according to a new press report.

A spokesperson for the United Nations Children's Fund said that Pyongyang has not been making the required arrangements after agreeing to import about 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Voice of America's Korean service reported Thursday.

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"The government has not yet fully completed the necessary preparatory steps required to receive COVAX-supported vaccines but UNICEF is providing technical assistance in this area," UNICEF said.

The World Health Organization and "UNICEF continue to work with the [North Korean] Ministry of Public Health to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility.

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"However, the country has not received any vaccine yet through this mechanism."

UNICEF also confirmed that "restrictions on movement" in North Korea has prevented the U.N. staff from undertaking field-based assessments.

"This has inevitably created a gap in available data," the agency said.

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COVAX was expected to donate vaccines to fully inoculate 852,000 people in North Korea earlier this year, but lack of cooperation from Pyongyang has impeded delivery, according to reports.

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North Korea in July also took issue with foreign aid. Pyongyang's foreign ministry said last month that outside assistance is a form of "economic infiltration" that should "never be tolerated."

UNICEF also said that the agency delivered other vaccines since the start of pandemic, including a shipment in the second quarter of 2020.

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"Currently, there are only stocks of Hepatitis B vaccine in-country," the agency said.

South Korea also has disclosed plans to "share" COVID-19 vaccines with the North. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, co-leader of COVAX, has said that South Korea pledged to donate $200 million to the Facility.

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