The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday April 8.

Government asks medical regulators to look into AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clot link.

Europe's drug regulator has found a possible link between AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clotting issues in adults who had received the shot, prompting the Australian federal government to ask national regulators to urgently look into the finding.

"The government has asked [the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation] and the [Therapeutic Goods Administration] to immediately consider and advise on the latest vaccination findings out of Europe and the UK," a government spokesperson said.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Thursday morning he would be able to provide advice to National Cabinet tomorrow, after ATAGI and TGA meetings today.

"We certainly place safety above all else, and as we've done throughout the pandemic, the government will be guided by that health advice," he said.

He stressed blood clots were "extremely rare".

"Like with any treatment, vaccine, medicine we have to look at the risk and benefit and we do know that the risk of vaccination against this very serious disease of COVID is a really important component of our control," Professor Kelly said.

"The AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely effective and very safe for most people."

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said: "One plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is an immune response, leading to a condition similar to one seen sometimes in patients treated with heparin."

The findings come as a major hurdle in the global fight against the pandemic and a shift in the stance of the regulator, which had last week backed the vaccine and said there was no increased risk of blood clots in general from the shot.

It is also a blow to AstraZeneca, which was a frontrunner in the race for making an effective vaccine against COVID-19 ever since it began working with the University of Oxford.

The EMA's safety committee, which was assessing the vaccine, has requested for more studies and changes to the current ones to get more information. 

Australia to mark one million jabs within days.

One million Australians will have received their coronavirus vaccines within days and the national figure is expected to double soon afterwards.

More than 920,000 people have now been given coronavirus jabs.

The number is still a very long way behind the government's initial targets, but signs of improvement are starting to show.

Health Minister Greg Hunt expects to reach the one million mark "very soon" as people return to general practices after the Easter break and larger vaccination clinics scale up their operations.

He expects the daily injection rate to ramp up rapidly as more doctors join the rollout, soon soaring past two million jabs.


"What we'll see is that continued acceleration and all these milestones will be progressively reached," Mr Hunt told reporters.

The prime minister has spent the past several days escalating a messy dispute with the European Union over the failed delivery of millions of vaccines.

Scott Morrison blames the blockage for major delays in Australia's rollout.

European officials have hit back at his claims, sparking an unseemly war of words.

Meanwhile, federal health officials say there are no signs of a "causal link" between the Pfizer vaccine and the death of a woman in a Queensland aged care home.

It is understood the 82-year-old received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Springwood Yurana Aged Care Facility on Wednesday, before she died in the afternoon.

"Any event that happens following vaccination is fully investigated," Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said.

"Sadly more than 1000 people pass in aged care every week. 

"It can be expected that older and more frail people in an aged care setting may pass away due to progression of underlying disease or natural causes, this does not mean the vaccine has contributed to this."

The woman had a lung condition, according to the Courier Mail.

Call for law reform after teens' murders.

This post deals with family violence and may be triggering.

Family law must be reformed to place safety at the centre of decision-making, a peak body says after a coroner's findings into two teenagers' domestic violence deaths.


NSW State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan on Wednesday found reports of domestic violence made against Sydney father John Edwards were minimised in the family court 18 months before he shot dead his children in July 2018.

Image: Supplied.

The murders of Jack and Jennifer Edwards, aged 15 and 13, also sparked questions about how Edwards obtained licences to shoot and buy guns despite protracted, acrimonious family law proceedings.

Ms O'Sullivan called for the creation of a system that meant domestic violence issues raised in the family court are automatically shared with NSW police and the state's gun registry.

Read more: In 2018, teens Jack and Jennifer were murdered by their father. Their deaths were 'entirely preventable'.

But the chief executive of Women's Legal Service Queensland has urged further reform of family law, saying the inquest findings provide "clear lessons" for the federal government on preventing family violence.

The Edwards case exemplifies how safety is still a "side consideration" in the family law system, which needed to better identify domestic violence risks, Angela Lynch said.

"Professionals and specialists in family law need to devise new strategies and build the safest possible system for victims of violence, even if this impinges on the freedoms of perpetrators," she said.

Among the coroner's 24 recommendations was a call for a NSW legal body to investigate the conduct of the lawyer tasked to advocate for Jack and Jennifer in the family court.


That lawyer had promoted orders in December 2016 that sought to bring the children into contact with John, despite allegations he was abusive to the children and had allegedly stalked another daughter.

One proposed law change would add personal violence and domestic violence offences to crimes that automatically disqualify gun permit applicants.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit for further information.

Women's safety summit to be held in July.

Leaders from across Australia will meet to draft a national plan to improve women's safety in July, as calls for better funding for frontline services grow.

A National Women's Safety Summit will be held on July 29 and 30, and will form part of a consultation process for the next domestic violence national plan.

Federal, state and territory ministers responsible for women's safety met on Wednesday to discuss the replacement of the nation's first domestic violence national plan, which is due to expire in 2022.

Federal Women's Safety Minister Anne Ruston heard calls for more funding to urgently be allocated to frontline services.

An extra $150 million in federal funding was made available to respond to increased demand for services during the pandemic and paid directly to states and territories.


More than 15 organisations have called on the federal, state and territory governments to repeat the cash injection that addressed the spike in domestic violence during the pandemic.

Virus origins probe 'tainted by politics'.

A joint China-World Health Organisation study into COVID-19 has provided no credible answers about how the pandemic began and more rigorous investigations are required - with or without China's involvement, a group of international scientists and researchers say.

The joint study released last week said the likeliest transmission route for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, involved bats and other wildlife in China and southeast Asia.

It all but ruled out the possibility it had leaked from a laboratory.

In an open letter, 24 scientists and researchers from Europe, the United States, Australia and Japan said the study was tainted by politics.

"Their starting point was, let's have as much compromise as is required to get some minimal cooperation from China," said Jamie Metzl, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, who drafted the letter.

The letter said the study's conclusions were based on unpublished Chinese research, while critical records and biological samples "remain inaccessible".

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus said last week China had withheld data.

Liang Wannian, China's senior COVID-19 expert, denied this and appeared to rule out any further joint investigations in China, saying the focus should shift to other countries.

Metzl said the world might have to "revert to Plan B" and conduct an investigation "in the most systematic way possible" without China's involvement.

Chauvin 'never took knee off Floyd's neck'.

Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd's neck - and was bearing down with most of his weight - the entire time the black man lay face-down with his hands cuffed behind his back, a use-of-force expert has testified.

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant serving as a prosecution witness, told Chauvin's murder trial on Wednesday that based on his review of video evidence, Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck from the time officers put Floyd on the ground until paramedics arrived - about nine and half minutes, by prosecutors' reckoning.

George Floyd. Image: Supplied.


Prosecutor Steve Schleicher showed jurors a composite image of five photos taken from various videos of the arrest.

Stiger went through each photo, saying it appeared the Minneapolis officer's left knee was on Floyd's neck or neck area in each one.

"That particular force did not change during the entire restraint period?" Schleicher asked.

"Correct," Stiger replied.

Stiger also said Chauvin squeezed Floyd's fingers and pulled one of his wrists toward his handcuffs, a technique that uses pain to get someone to comply, but did not appear to let up while Floyd was restrained.

Stiger's testimony came a day after Chauvin lawyer Eric Nelson sought to point out moments in the video footage when, he said, Chauvin's knee did not appear to be on Floyd's neck.

On Tuesday, Stiger testified officers were justified in using force while Floyd was resisting their efforts to put him in a squad car. But once Floyd was on the ground and stopped resisting, officers "should have slowed down or stopped their force as well".

Stiger said that after reviewing video of the arrest, "my opinion was that the force was excessive".

Woods was speeding before crash: sheriff.

Tiger Woods was driving at nearly twice the speed limit on a downhill stretch of road when he lost control of an SUV outside Los Angeles, and crashed in a wreck that left the golf superstar seriously injured, authorities say. 

Sheriff Alex Villanueva blamed the February 23 crash solely on excessive speed and Woods' loss of control behind the wheel on the curved road.


Woods was driving at 84-87mph (135-140km/h) in an area that had a speed limit of 45mph (72km/h), Villanueva said.

"The primary causal factor for this traffic collision was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway," the sheriff told a news conference on Wednesday.

There was no evidence the golfer tried to brake, and it's believed Woods inadvertently stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, Sheriff's Captain James Powers said. 

The 15-time major champion was wearing a seat belt at the time, and the SUV's airbags deployed.

Officials said Woods told police he had not taken medication or consumed alcohol before the crash.

Detectives did not seek search warrants for blood samples, which could have been screened for drugs or alcohol, or Woods' phone. 

Authorities said there was no evidence of impairment or of distracted driving, so they did not have probable cause to get warrants. 

Around the world.

- Australian cricketer Daniel Sams has been forced into isolation in India after testing positive for COVID-19, just a week after flying to the country to take up his Indian Premier League contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore.

- Iran says an Iranian ship was attacked in the Red Sea, a day after media reports that the vessel had been hit with limpet mines. It is the latest in a series of attacks on Iranian and Israeli ships in the area, with each side accusing each other of being responsible.

- A lawyer for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says his health is deteriorating, and that he is losing a kilogram a day due to a hunger strike in prison, a protest at what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to treat him properly for acute pain from herniated spinal discs.

-With AAP.