North Korea has rejected about 3 million doses of China’s Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccine, saying they should be sent to severely affected countries, Unicef said on Wednesday.

A spokesperson said the country had asked that the shots be relocated to harder hit nations in view of global vaccine shortages.

In July, North Korea had rejected shipments of around two million doses of the AstraZeneca jab due to concerns over side effects, according to a South Korean think-tank.

The Institute for National Security Strategy had then said that North Korea was not keen on Chinese vaccines due to concerns they may not be that effective.

Several countries such as Thailand and Uruguay have begun using other vaccines for those who received the Sinovac shot as their first dose in a bid to increase protection.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, told reporters in July that it had offered to supply North Korea with its own Sputnik vaccine on multiple occasions.

North Korea has expressed some skepticism about the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccinations, with state media frequently reporting on incidents in the United States and Europe in which people had negative reactions to the shots.

As of 19 August, North Korea had recorded no cases of Covid-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Some 37,291 people – including health care workers and those with flu-like illnesses – had been tested and all were found to be negative, the WHO said in its weekly situation report.

North Korea imposed strict anti-virus measures from the beginning of the pandemic. It was one of the first countries to close its borders in January last year.

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