North Korea has rejected roughly three million COVID-19 vaccine doses of China's Sinovac Biotech, saying they should be sent to severely affected countries, the UNICEF said on Wednesday.
The isolated country's public ministry pointed to the limited global supply for vaccines and continuing virus surges elsewhere, according to the UN children's agency that manages the supply for the COVAX scheme for lower-income nations.
So far, North Korea has not reported any COVID-19 cases and has imposed strict anti-virus measures, including border closures and domestic travel curbs.
A spokesperson for the UN agency told Reuters that the ministry will continue to communicate with COVAX facility to receive vaccines in the coming months.
In July, North Korea had rejected shipments of AstraZeneca's vaccine due to concerns over side effects, according to a South Korean think-tank, which is affiliated with South Korea's spy agency.
The Institute for National Security Strategy had then said that North Korea was not keen on Chinese vaccines due to concerns they may not be that effective, but it has shown interest in shots made in Russia.
Several countries such as Thailand and Uruguay have begun using other vaccines for those who received the Sinovac shot as their first dose in a bid to increase protection.
"We continue to work with DPRK authorities to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic," a spokesperson for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization alliance, one of the organizations that co-leads COVAX scheme, said.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Sangmi Cha in Seoul; Editing by Ramakrishnan M. and Arun Koyyur) ((Manas.Mishra@thomsonreuters.com; www.twitter.com/Manasmishra24; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780, outside U.S. +91 806749 2709;))