North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the rest of the country’s leadership will not receive doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine North Korea is set to receive from the COVAX Facility in the first part of this year, Daily NK has learned.

“The Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un] has not received any coronavirus vaccination yet and will not receive a vaccine from among those supplied internationally,” a high-level source in North Korea told Daily NK on Wednesday.

There was speculation that Kim and other members of the leadership had received COVID-19 vaccinations because they did not wear masks while attending the Second Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee and a performance celebrating lunar new year’s.

North Korean authorities believe that Kim’s use of a mask would show that he has “anxiety” about the country’s disease country efforts, which is why he did not wear one, the source explained.

Participants at the events were given frequent temperature checks and their overall health conditions were monitored closely, according to the source, who went on to explain that high-level officials were only able to enter venues after reporting their contact with others and receiving confirmation that “nothing unusual” had occurred.

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

The reason Kim and other members of the leadership will not receive AstraZeneca vaccinations is because the leadership is unsure about the potential side effects of the vaccine, according to the source.

Daily NK reported recently that North Korean authorities discussed first giving the vaccine to people who had been released from isolation facilities after recovering from symptoms similar to that caused by COVID-19.

“The leadership plans to get themselves vaccinated once they have conducted tests on the vaccine and confirmed there are no problems,” the source said. “Central Committee cadres are a suspicious lot and will even go to the extent of bribing doctors [not to get vaccinated] after being ordered to get inoculated.”

Daily NK understands that there has been no discussion about Kim receiving a vaccination given that even high-level cadres are worried about the side effects of the vaccine.

Kim is unlikely to be at the front of the line to receive a vaccine unless the country requires the “political show” of him getting it first.

“The leadership will not get Chinese or Russian vaccines, given that there is controversy over how effective they are,” the source said.

If, however, China or Russia decide to provide their vaccines to North Korea, the country would likely accept such an offer.

“The leadership could provide the Chinese vaccine to regular people to first confirm its efficacy and whether there are side effects, and also use the vaccinations as political propaganda to show how much the Party cares about the people,” the source said.

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to