BENGALURU, Feb. 4 (CNA) - North Korea is expected to receive nearly two million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine by the first half of this year, said agencies leading the COVAX vaccine-sharing programme.

The COVAX Facility will distribute 1.992 million doses of the vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India, according to the COVAX interim distribution report on Wednesday (Feb 3).

COVAX, which secures vaccines for poor countries, is co-led by the GAVI alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the UN Children's Fund.

North Korea has maintained that it has not detected a single case of COVID-19, a claim disputed by outside experts, although the country previously said there were thousands of "suspected cases".

Pyongyang lashed out at South Korea's foreign minister last month for casting doubt over its claim that there were no coronavirus outbreaks there, warning of consequences for her "impudent" comment.

According to South Korea's spy agency in November, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea and locked down the capital Pyongyang, as part of frantic efforts to guard against COVID-19 and its economic damage.

The pandemic also forced North Korea to seal its border with China, its biggest trading partner and aid benefactor, last January. The closure, along with a series of natural disasters over the summer, dealt a heavy blow to the North's economy, which has been under punishing US-led sanctions.