North Korea Rejects Covid-19 Vaccine Doses


Covid-19’s Delta variant is proliferating world-wide threatening unvaccinated populations and economic recovery. WSJ breaks down events in key countries to explain why Delta spreads faster than previously detected strains. Composite: Sharon Shi

SEOUL—North Korea has turned down roughly three million doses of Covid-19 vaccines developed by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech Ltd., instructing that they should instead be sent to harder-hit countries.

The shots were offered in recent weeks through the Covax initiative, a program financed mostly by Western governments to help lower-income countries obtain vaccines.

North Korea’s public health ministry declined the shipment, citing the limited global supply for Covid-19 vaccines and continuing virus surges elsewhere, according to a spokeswoman for Unicef, which helps deliver shots on behalf of Covax. North Korea requested the vaccines be “relocated to severely affected countries,” the spokeswoman said.

Kim Jong Un’s regime has reported zero confirmed Covid-19 cases to the World Health Organization. Its borders remain sealed, and state media has urged constant vigilance in the nation’s anti-epidemic campaign. Mr. Kim has called avoiding virus outbreaks a matter of national survival.

The impoverished country, which lacks the funds to purchase vaccines itself, has applied for assistance through Covax, though has yet to receive any doses. A planned Covax shipment earlier this year of about two million AstraZeneca PLC vaccines has faced delays.