North Korea Is Rejecting Offers of COVID Vaccines

S. Korea intelligence agency says there is no sign leader has been vaccinated
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2021 7:21 AM CDT
Spies Say There Is No Sign Kim Jong Un Has Had Vaccine
Cleaning staff work at the Pyongyang Primary School No. 4 in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, June 30, 2021.   (AP Photo/Cha Song Ho)

North Korea has been rejecting donations of COVID vaccines from other countries and Kim Jong Un himself may still be unvaccinated, according to South Korea's spy agency. South Korean legislators say the National Intelligence Service told lawmakers Thursday that there is no sign the leader has been vaccinated and the country is relying on keeping its border sealed to prevent infections, the AP reports. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia has offered North Korea vaccines on several occasions but the offer has not been accepted. The UN-backed COVAX program has allocated 1.9 million doses to the country but the shipment has not been made and UNICEF says it's not clear when they can be delivered.

Other experts, however, suspect Kim and other high-ranking North Koreans may have already received vaccines through unofficial channels. A US analyst, citing Japanese intelligence sources, told Reuters last year that Kim had received an experimental Chinese vaccine. Laura Bicker at the BBC says experts have told her Pyongyang's reluctance to accept vaccine doses from overseas "may be due to a lack of refrigeration facilities to transport the vaccine and a fear of letting foreigners in to monitor the rollout." North Korea claims to have had no COVID infections, though Kim recently warned that a "great crisis" could led to food shortages. Bloomberg reports that South Korea's spy agency said Kim recently lost up to 44 pounds, but it believes the weight loss was the result of a new diet, not any health issues. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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