Covax, the global vaccine-sharing initiative, announced on Tuesday that it had allocated more than 4.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to North Korea, which is not believed to have administered any shots yet.
North Korean officials did not immediately respond to the announcement.
The reclusive government has not reported any coronavirus cases, and has turned down several previous offers of doses, including from Covax, China and Russia. But in June, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said that lapses in his country’s anti-pandemic campaign had caused a “great crisis” that threatened “grave consequences,” according to state media. He did not clarify whether he was referring to an outbreak in the country.
Though it claims to be Covid-free, North Korea has taken measures to respond to the coronavirus crisis, sealing its borders in January 2020 and skipping the Tokyo Olympics this year.
The World Health Organization said its shipments of medical goods, along with other international supplies destined for North Korea, had been stranded in China when Pyongyang closed its borders. Last month, the agency said it had resumed shipments of medical supplies to North Korea, in what appeared to signal a relaxation of the closed-border policies enforced by Pyongyang early in the pandemic.