Opinion: Prioritizing childhood vaccination in North Korea

November 17, 2023 – As North Korea reopens its international borders after two years of near-total closure, ensuring that children there get access to life-saving vaccines should be a public health priority, according to Hyung Joon Kim, a DrPH student at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In an October 26 opinion article in the Diplomat, Kim noted that childhood vaccination coverage in North Korea dropped from 97% in 2020 to 0% in 2022. As a result, the country could face an increase in the spread of infectious diseases such as measles, polio, and pertussis.

“The immunization gap is a public health crisis, and we must prevent the future cost of inaction,” he wrote.

Kim added that other countries such as South Korea and the U.S. have a responsibility to support North Korea’s efforts to reinstate a vaccine program.

“Every child deserves equitable access to vaccines, and a 0 percent immunization coverage rate is a neglect of moral responsibility for any nation,” he wrote. “Our shared duty as an international community is to ensure that children in North Korea and around the world receive the vaccines they need to live healthy.”

Read the Diplomat opinion article: Restoring North Korea’s Childhood Immunization Program