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  • Coronavirus pandemic

image sourceReutersimage captionNorth Korea has cast doubt over the efficacy of Chinese-made vaccines

North Korea has asked that almost three million Covid-19 jabs offered to it be redirected elsewhere, the UN says.

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

The Chinese-made Sinovac shots were offered under the Covax programme which aims to help poorer nations obtain vaccines.

North Korea is part of the scheme but is yet to receive any doses under it.

The secretive nation 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.

However, analysts have expressed doubts about the country's success in containing the virus and health officials have told the BBC that China is increasingly concerned about the potential spread of the virus inside North Korea.

This isn't the first time the country has rejected vaccines. In July, it rejected shipments of around two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing concerns over potential side effects, a South-Korean think-tank associated with the country's intelligence service said.

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 doubt over the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccinations, with state media frequently reporting on incidents in the US and Europe where individuals have had adverse reactions to the shots.

For much of the pandemic North Korea insisted it had seen no cases, but this year its leader Kim Jong-un berated senior officials over a "grave incident" believed to be related to the virus

More on North Korea:

  • How North Korea almost pulled off a billion-dollar hack
  • North Korea: Why doesn't it have enough food this year?
  • North Korea's 'only openly gay defector' finds love

media captionA defector tells the BBC about TV choices in North Korea.