At This Point, Vaccines Aren't What North Korea Needs

One expert suggests it's too late for mass vaccinations to help
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2022 2:10 PM CDT
North Korea Admits Almost 10% of Country Has the 'Fever'
People watch a TV screen showing a news program reporting with an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a train station in Seoul, South Korea on May 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

North Korea isn't exactly fighting fire with fire when it comes to COVID, at least according to the BBC's monitoring of state media. The country of 25 million has no stockpile of or access to anti-viral drugs, so its population is reportedly being advised to turn toward less potent "treatments," like herbal tea—specifically ginger or honeysuckle—and salt water. With 2.24 million residents "sickened with fever" as of Thursday night, per ABC News, the state news agency reports a "thousand of tons of salt" were being directed to Pyongyang in order to make an "antiseptic solution." Painkillers like ibuprofen and antibiotics like amoxicillin are also being recommended. The BBC explains why none of those are thought to do anything to combat COVID.

North Korea was offered 3 million doses of China's Sinovac vaccine through the World Health Organization's COVAX program last year, but refused them. South Korea has offered vaccines and related medical supplies but says the North hasn't responded to its offer. The Washington Post reports Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, says North Korea shouldn't even concern itself with vaccines at this point, as it's likely "too late for a mass vaccination campaign to soften the blow from omicron." He says the best-case scenario would be for North Korea to accept the delivery of antiviral drugs like Paxlovid from outside countries. As for why the country still isn't using the word COVID, ABC News suspects it's because it doesn't have PCR test kits to confirm that's what it is. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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