North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered officials to wage a tougher epidemic prevention campaign in “our style” after he turned down some foreign Covid-19 vaccines offered via the U.N.-backed immunization program. Kim said officials must “bear in mind that tightening epidemic prevention is the task of paramount importance which must not be loosened even a moment,” during a Politburo meeting Thursday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported Friday.
Kim also called for “further rounding off our style epidemic prevention system,” while stressing the need for material and technical means of virus prevention and increasing health workers’ qualifications, KCNA said. Kim previously called for North Koreans to brace for prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, indicating the nation’s borders would stay closed despite worsening economic and food conditions. North Korea has used tough quarantines and border closures to prevent outbreaks, though its claim to be entirely virus-free is widely doubted since the start of the pandemic. UNICEF said North Korea proposed its allotment of about 3 million Sinovac shots be sent to severely affected countries instead. North Korea was also slated to receive AstraZeneca shots through COVAX, but their delivery has been delayed. According to UNICEF, North Korea’s health ministry still said it would continue to communicate with COVAX over future vaccines. Some experts believe North Korea may want other vaccines, while questioning the effectiveness of Sinovac and the rare blood clots seen in some recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine.