Report: North Korea interested in Russia’s Sputnik V, Sputnik Light vaccines

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June 4 (UPI) — North Korea is signaling interest in acquiring doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, according to a Russian press report.

A Russian pharmaceutical source told news agency Interfax that the Kim Jong Un regime has expressed interest in both the Sputnik V and the Sputnik Light vaccines.

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Gamaleya Research Institute, under Russia’s Ministry of Health, developed the Sputnik V vaccine. The vaccine uses two different types of adenovirus vectors, rAd26 and rAd5, and has shown an efficacy rate of 91.6% among fully vaccinated recipients. It requires two doses.

The Sputnik Light vaccine could accelerate the pace of vaccination. It only uses the rAd26 adenovirus vector and requires a single dose. One dose showed a 79.4% efficacy rate, according to a Russian mass vaccination program that took place between December and April.

North Korea has not publicly rolled out vaccines. Earlier this week the international vaccine alliance Gavi said talks are ongoing with Pyongyang. Previous press reports have suggested North Korea could be opposed to allowing in foreign monitors.

North Korea is expected to import 1,704,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to COVAX. Doses to be delivered to North Korea have been adjusted down from an original 1,992,000 from the Serum Institute of India.

Pyongyang could be anxious to get hold of vaccines. On Tuesday the government urged the World Health Organization to play a more active role in global vaccine distribution and criticized some countries for “stockpiling” surplus doses.

“While the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are an achievement, some countries are unable to obtain vaccines due to a lack of purchasing power,” Pyongyang said.

“The harsh reality is some nations acquire and stockpile more vaccines than needed owing to vaccine nationalism.”

Defectors in the South have said North Korea’s hospitals are poorly equipped to handle a pandemic.