North Korean authorities have reportedly informed international organizations of when they intend to begin COVID-19 inoculations. The country’s authorities are reportedly considering which vaccines they hope to use as well.

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea on Sunday, North Korean authorities have told “international organizations” that they hope to begin inoculations at the end of February at the earliest or early March at the latest.

Relatedly, North Korea has reportedly applied to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 4 that in addition to Gavi, North Korea has also made vaccine procurement requests to the embassies of several European nations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it believes it can begin providing some COVID-19 vaccines to low-income nations through Gavi’s COVAX Facility in the first quarter of this year at the earliest.

This suggests that if North Korea asked Gavi for vaccines, it could receive them starting this spring.

Gavi has been asking donors to help it provide vaccines to 86 low-income nations, including North Korea, through the COVAX Facility. The COVAX Facility has reportedly secured enough vaccines to inoculate 20% of the world’s population through the end of this year.

North Korean authorities soon plan to inform international organizations which vaccines they prefer, too.

“[North Korean authorities] are currently considering which vaccines they’ll request from international bodies,” said the source. “In particular, they are noting which manufacturers make the vaccines selected by South Choson [South Korea].”

That is to say, North Korea hopes to receive the vaccines the South Korean government selected, too.

covid quarantine
Disease control officials testing drivers for COVID-19 symptoms in Pyongyang’s Manggyongdae District. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

The source claims that with the possible side effects of vaccines still unclear, North Korean authorities believe they can “more or less” trust ones selected by the South Korean government.

High-ranking North Korean officials prefer vaccines made by British or German pharmaceutical companies, but they also look favorably on vaccines made by other manufacturers purchased by South Korea, said the source.

However, North Korean authorities reportedly have no intention to receive COVID-19 vaccines or treatments if they have been funded or subsidized by the South Korean government.

“Wanting vaccines chosen by South Choson is different from receiving vaccines provided by South Choson,” said the source. “I understand that no results have come out yet from deliberations on this matter.” 

Meanwhile, North Korean authorities have reportedly been unable to craft specific plans to make up vaccine shortfalls apart from what they will receive from international organizations. They are focusing on independently developing vaccines, but reportedly distrust the medical efficacy of these homegrown vaccines. 

North Korea could also import cheap vaccines from China or Russia, but the source said authorities so far have “little faith” in vaccines from those countries.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Jang Seul Gi is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.