North Korea is set to reopen its borders to receive almost two million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Program of the World Health Organization (WHO) months after closing its borders in efforts to prevent the deadly virus from infiltrating the Hermit state.
North Korea To Receive Two Million Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine
While the country is known to have very limited resources, medical professionals have expressed confidence that doctors from North Korea will be able to carry out a successful vaccination program. However, there are several human rights activists who claim that the yearlong border closure that Pyongyang imposed has already caused a humanitarian disaster.
North Korea will be receiving 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine provided by the COVAX Facility. COVAX is a multinational program aiming to supply coronavirus vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
In a statement by the director of the North Korean program of the Korean American Medical Association, Kee Park, he said that the doctors in the rogue state have experience in carrying out statewide vaccination programs. He also added that the AstraZeneca vaccine is a good option for the North since it is easier to transport and does not require very low temperature,
The AstraZeneca COVID-10 vaccine only needs to be stored at a temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius. The temperature requirement also happens to be the standard refrigeration temperature that North Korean medical infrastructures have.
In a statement to VOA News, Park said that North Korea should be able to maintain the cold chain required by the vaccine in order to protect it from denaturing. He also said that since the cold chain is already achievable, the North only needs the capacity to distribute the vaccine nationwide and to know how to manage a vaccination campaign.
Moreover, Park said that he has worked with doctors from North Korea in the past on several trips he has made to the country. He added that despite the limited resources of the state, the medical professionals are able to do their best with the resources they have available.
However, Park said that the international sanctions that Pyongyang faces due to its nuclear weapons program have become a major hurdle for the hospitals in the country. He also said that it has greatly slowed down the public health campaigns in the country.
According to NK News, North Korea has zero reported COVID-19 cases, which the Hermit Kingdom has associated with its strict border closure. Many people from the outside are still not convinced that the numbers from the North are accurate.
In a statement, the head of the human rights group Liberty in North Korea's office in Seoul, Sokeel Park said that Kim Jong-Un's regime has been able to control the pandemic due to its draconian restriction and limitations on domestic travel.
However, Sokeel also said that the restrictions have deeply affected the country's poor. He also stated that he is worried about the possibility that Pyongyang may keep the restrictions even after the pandemic is over, PRI reported.
Moreover, he said that since the border restrictions have prevented most aid workers from entering the country, he is concerned that the COVID-19 vaccine will not be distributed fairly in North Korea.
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