There is currently no information to suggest that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been administered a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the National Intelligence Service (NIS), South Korea's spy agency, cited by AP.
Lawmakers were also informed by NIS at a closed-door briefing that no shipments of coronavirus vaccines have been detected to North Korea, according to legislator Ha Tae-keung, cited by the outlet.
North Korea has been expected to import 1.9 million doses of jabs in the first half of the year, according to COVAX, the UN-backed global program to accelerate equitable access to coronavirus tests, treatments, and vaccines worldwide.
According to The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), which delivers vaccines on behalf of COVAX North Korea has not yet complete its paperwork for supplies.
"WHO and UNICEF have been working with the (North Korean) Ministry of Public Health to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility. However, (North Korea) has not received vaccines through the COVAX Facility yet and there is no confirmation when the country will receive them," said UNICEF said in an emailed statement.
Furthermore, there have been no reports that North Korea has sought to secure vaccines elsewhere.
While some non-government experts have been cited as speculating that the North Korean leader and his entourage may have received imported vaccines via unofficial channels, in recent speeches, Kim Jong Un warned the population of his country to brace for protracted pandemic-wrought restrictions and borders remaining closed since they were sealed off in January 2020 in response to the pandemic.
The nation’s athletes will skip the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in order to protect themselves from the infectious disease.
The NIS was also quoted as saying that North Korea's government is attempting to drive home the message to ordinary citizens that instead of hoping to receive vaccines from abroad they should boost “anti-virus vigilance”, focusing on tough quarantines and border controls.
As part of the sweeping anti-virus measures, a clampdown on illegal border crossings is underway, with North Korea purportedly erecting guard posts and concrete structures along its border with China. According to the NIS briefing, North Korea had intended to reopen its border with China in April, but abandoned the plans due to a shortage of disinfecting equipment.
Lawmakers were ostensibly told that even China’s diplomats are being barred entry into North Korea. The North Korean government continues to claim it is coronavirus-free.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in its most recent "South-East Asia Region Weekly COVID-19 Situational Report" it said the country continues to report "no cases". North Korea, said WHO, reported that it had tested 31,794 people for the virus through June 24.
Kim Jong Un recently harangued top officials for "crucial" failures in coronavirus prevention that caused a "great crisis". North Korea's leader sacked several high-ranking officials, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
"Senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of the important decisions of the party on taking organisational, institutional, material, scientific, and technological measures ... associated with the worldwide health crisis, and thus caused a crucial case of creating a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people and entailed grave consequences," said Kim at a specially convened meeting of leaders of the ruling Workers' Party, according to KCNA.