Australia has reported its first death linked to the AstraZeneca jab.
The 48-year-old woman was injected with the vaccine on April 8.
That was hours before Australian authorities recommended people under the age of 50 take the Pfizer jab instead because of the small risk of rare blood clots associated with AstraZeneca, Therapeutic Goods Administration, the vaccine regulator, said in a statement.
She was admitted with blood clots to a Newcastle hospital in New South Wales state four days later and died on Thursday, the statement said.
The woman is the third case of blood clots in Australia officially linked to the vaccine since the national rollout began in early March.
About 885,000 doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered across the nation.
The news came just as the head of the World Health Organisation said coronavirus cases are continuing to rise globally at “worrying” rates and noted that the number of new cases confirmed per week has nearly doubled during the past two months.
At a press briefing in Geneva, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of new cases “is approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far in the pandemic”.
Dr Tedros said some countries that had been able to avoid widespread Covid-19 outbreaks are now seeing steep increases, citing Papua New Guinea as an example. “Until the beginning of this year, Papua New Guinea had reported less than 900 cases and nine deaths,” Dr Tedros said. The country has now identified more than 9,000 cases and 83 deaths, half of which were reported in the last month.
“Papua New Guinea is a perfect example of why vaccine equity is so important,” Dr Tedros said, adding that the Pacific island nation has relied on vaccine donations from Australia and the UN-backed Covax initiative.
To date, Covax has shipped about 40m vaccines to more than 100 countries, or enough to protect about 0.25% of the world’s population.
Another nation that’s struggling is Japan.
The country has decided to raise its coronavirus alert level in the capital’s three neighbouring prefectures and a fourth area in central Japan to allow tougher measures as a more contagious coronavirus variant spreads and adds to doubts about whether the Tokyo Olympics can go ahead.
The government approved the alert status for Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures in the capital region and Aichi in central Japan.
The measure will allow heads of the prefectures to mandate shorter hours for bars and restaurants, along with punishments for violators and compensation for those who comply.
The measures are to begin on Monday and continue through to May 11 after the end of Japan’s “golden week” holidays.
“We must keep the infections from spreading further and causing a big nationwide resurgence,” chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said, asking the people to avoid travelling during the holidays.
The move comes only four days after Tokyo was placed on alert amid a surge in new infections.
And the surge has also prompted concern among many Japanese about hosting the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled for July 23 to August 8.