SEOUL: The global vaccine-sharing network COVAX has set aside 4.73 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot for shipment to North Korea, one of the very few countries that haven't started vaccination, according to its allocation plan.
The plan follows an earlier offer for nearly 2 million doses of the shot that the reclusive state had rejected due to concerns over side effects, according to a South Korean think-tank.
South Korea's unification ministry which oversees engagement with the North said on Tuesday (Nov 30) it appears detailed distribution arrangement has yet to be made, as COVAX continues to engage with Pyongyang.
The allocation is part of its plan to distribute 43 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and Moderna's COVID-19 shot by the end of December, as COVAX aims to ship up to 1 billion doses in total this year.
Co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), COVAX has since January largely allocated vaccine doses proportionally among its 140-plus beneficiary states according to population size.
North Korea and Eritrea are the only countries that have yet to start their vaccination campaign against COVID-19, according to the WHO.
North Korea has not officially confirmed any COVID-19 cases, a position questioned by South Korean and US officials. But it has imposed strict anti-virus measures, including border closures and domestic travel curbs.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had said in June that the failure to implement measures to tackle the coronavirus had caused a "great crisis", according to state media.
By Nov 11 North Korea had tested at least 45,564 people for COVID-19 with no positive results, according to the WHO.