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Bus hijacked and set on fire as disorder continues

Voice Of EU



A bus was hijacked and set on fire near an interface in Belfast after violence broke out again in Northern Ireland on Wednesday evening.

The bus was set alight after youths pelted it with petrol bombs at the junction of Lanark Way and the Shankill Road in west Belfast.

A person with a canister next to a fire during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface in Belfast. Photograph: Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
A person with a canister next to a fire during clashes at the Springfield Road/Lanark Way interface in Belfast. Photograph: Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The North’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, condemned the violence and said her thoughts were with the driver. “This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder.

“These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism. They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and only serve to take the focus off the real lawbreakers in Sinn Féin.”

The Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said the “disgraceful scenes of violence and destruction” in Belfast on Wednesday night had “clearly been planned in advance and orchestrated by loyalist criminal gangs.”

He said the location of “so-called protests” close to interfaces was a “clear and deliberate attempt to raise tensions and incite further violence” and they needed to end “before someone is killed or seriously injured.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney tweeted on Wednesday night: “Very disturbing scenes of violence in NI tonight. All people of influence, political and community leaders, have a responsibility to do what they can to defuse tension.”

The British prime minister Boris Johnson also tweeted on Wednesday night that he was “deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.

“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence of criminality.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed on Wednesday evening they had received a report of an assault on a press photographer in Cupar Way at 6.05pm.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International in Northern Ireland condemned the “despicable attack”, saying it was “the latest attempt to intimidate journalists from doing their jobs and was an attack on the freedom of the press.

“We stand with Kevin Scott and all journalists in Northern Ireland forced to work in a climate of fear,” Mr Corrigan said.

“For some considerable time Amnesty has been warning of the escalation of chilling threats against journalists.

“Once again, we are calling for the police to hold the perpetrators to account and to uphold press freedom, which is a cornerstone of any democratic society, but is under serious and sustained threat in Northern Ireland.”

It follows consecutive nights of unrest which began last week in loyalist areas in Derry, Belfast and elsewhere in Co Antrim which left 41 police officers injured. Ten arrests have been made.

Members of the North’s Assembly have been recalled from Easter recess and will debate a motion condemning the violence on Thursday morning.

Earlier on Wednesday, the chair of the North’s Policing Board called for “dialogue at all levels” between police officers, politicians and the community in order to calm tensions in loyalist areas.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, briefed members of the accountability body on the recent disorder, injuries to officer and the police’s assessment of the situation.

Speaking to the BBC following the briefing, Policing Board chairman Doug Garrett said there must be a “redoubling of efforts to calm tensions” and leadership was needed “from all those with influence” so that concerns could be addressed through democratic structures.

He also said that for senior politicians and the police not to talk was “not an ideal position” and dialogue was the only way to resolve the issues.

Mrs Foster faced criticism on Wednesday for her refusal to speak to the Chief Constable amid the continuing fallout over the decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin politicians for attending the funeral of Bobby Storey in apparent breach of the Covid-19 regulations.

Anger at the decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and unionist opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol and heightened tensions in loyalist areas over its operation, as well as recent drug seizures against the breakaway South East Antrim UDA, have also been blamed for the attacks on police.

Ms Foster said that if she met the Chief Constable “I will simply repeat what I said to him last Tuesday after the devastating report from the PPS [Public Prosecution Service] for him when I said that he had lost the confidence of the unionist community and he should resign.”

However, Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken said Ms Foster’s refusal to meet with the Chief Constable was a “mistake”, and while he also had “issues” with Mr Byrne because of “past actions and decisions … that should not be the cause for us to refuse to engage.”

The North’s Minister for Justice and leader of the Alliance Party Naomi Long told RTÉ it was “preposterous” Ms Foster “refuses” to meet Mr Byrne just weeks after she met the Loyalist Communities Council, an umbrella group for loyalist paramilitaries.

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HSE working to amend booster system as people receive multiple appointments

Voice Of EU



The Health Service Executive (HSE) is working to amend the coronavirus vaccine system, as multiple channels offering third jabs has caused challenges for the booster campaign, HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor has said.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms O’Connor explained that the booster vaccine was available through vaccination centres, general practitioners and pharmacies.

Some people had gone to their local pharmacy to get their booster vaccine and then had received an appointment at a vaccination centre, she said. She called on people to cancel their vaccination centre appointment if they had received their booster through their GP or pharmacy.

Ms O’Connor’s comments come after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Tuesday that there were 87,000 no-shows for boosters last week, and the chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, Dr Denis McCauley, described the non-attendances as “very disrespectful”.

Ms O’Connor said the priority for the HSE was to get as many people fully vaccinated as possible.

When asked about the lower levels of people in the 60-69 age cohort who have received their booster vaccine, Ms O’Connor said that not everyone in that age group would have had their second vaccine more than five months ago. That was “a natural limiter”.

Ms O’Connor said people possibly were apprehensive or busier, now that many were back at work or were preparing for Christmas, but the vaccine was important as was the booster.

To date more than a million people have received their booster vaccine, she added, and appointments will be offered to people aged between 50 and 59 from Thursday.

“We will also have walk-in centres open to people to get their vaccine and as ever we encourage everybody to avail of the vaccine. It’s really important, especially with a new variant, that we try to protect as many people as possible,” Ms O’Connor said.

‘Be respectful’

Meanwhile, Dr McAuley told Newstalk Breakfast that there were very few no-shows to booster appointments at GP surgeries, because people know their GP personally.

Now was not the time for “messing”, he said in relation to people failing to attend their appointments at vaccine centres.

“If you get a vaccine appointment, make sure that you go there rather than getting your hair done or going shopping – or if it is a work thing, stay on the helpline to get a new appointment.

“Be respectful of the mass vaccination centres. These are people who are working very hard and it is very disrespectful to have over 80,000 people not turn up in one week. It is not appropriate. You wouldn’t do it to your GP so why are you doing it to these healthcare workers.”

There was also a concern that some people were waiting to see what happens with the Omicron variant before getting their booster. Dr McCauley said that the booster would greatly reduce the chances of picking up the virus or having to go into hospital

Dr McCauley said there needed to be “a call to arms” for people to get vaccinated and he warned that when more information about Omicron emerged, booster appointments could be harder to come by.

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All you need to know on getting the Moderna vaccine as a booster

Voice Of EU



People due to receive their Covid-19 booster vaccine in coming weeks will primarily be offered the Moderna dose at HSE vaccination centres.

The HSE is reported to have large supplies of Moderna due to expire next month, so that will be the main vaccine administered over coming weeks to the over-60s, over-50s, healthcare workers, and younger people in vulnerable groups – though it will be restricted to people over 30.

Anecdotally there are indications some people may be reluctant to take the Moderna vaccine. This may be due to Irish stocks about to expire shortly and/or confusion about its efficacy. This follows the company’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel warning last week the Moderna jab may not be as effective against Omicron as it had been with the Delta variant.

The HSE has confirmed recipients will have no choice on what vaccine they are given.

What type of coronavirus vaccine is the Moderna jab?

It is a new kind of synthetic “mRNA vaccine” – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is from the same stable. They provide excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalisation – and have played a critical role in reducing Covid-19 deaths since being approved. A downside, however, is that the Moderna version must be kept at -20 degrees.

Should people be worried about receiving a soon to be out-of-date vaccine?

Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland



In short no, as they retain the ability to boost antibody production within currently approved time spans – though inevitably potency wanes over time. The Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson&Johnson) vaccines were put on the market with emergency use authorisation of up to six months.

This compares with a shelf life of two to three years for most vaccines and other medicines. This is an “inevitable consequence of getting the vaccines out of the door as quickly as possible”, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Gino Martini told the journal BMJ.

Months later, these “emergency” expiry dates remain in force for these vaccines. For approved Covid-19 vaccines, the initial shelf lives were based on data available at the time of submission for regulatory approval.

The long-term shelf life has not been extended for any of the vaccines. A shelf life extension would require supporting evidence from relevant stability studies. Vaccine manufacturers are monitoring batches of vaccines with the aim of providing a longer shelf life; probably the usual two years.

What about the Omicron threat?

While Moderna said existing vaccines including its mRNA version will probably be less effective against the Omicron variant, most experts believe they will continue to provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalisation. It should be stressed, however, definitive indication has yet to emerge. That will be a matter of weeks, if not days.

Moderna has confirmed it is developing an Omicron-specific booster though manufacturing the new vaccine would take time. Tens of millions of doses could be available in the first quarter of 2022, but scale-up would not happen until the second quarter – provided it is shown such boosters are required.

What is the latest indication on the benefits of mixing vaccines?

Evidence supporting a mixing of vaccine doses has hardened over recent months. A study this week shows combining a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with a second dose of either the Moderna or the Novavax jabs results in far higher levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells compared with two doses of the AstraZeneca jab.

This finding also has important implications for lower-income countries that have not yet completed their primary vaccination campaigns as it suggests you do not need access to mRNA vaccines – and therefore ultra-cold storage facilities – to trigger an extremely potent Covid-19 vaccine response.

The study also bolsters confidence that using the Moderna vaccine as a booster dose in people who have previously received the AstraZeneca jab should result in high levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells.

It follows separate data published last week suggesting the Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs can dramatically strengthen the body’s immune defences.

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Woman (90s) dies following single-vehicle crash in Co Clare

Voice Of EU



A woman in her 90s has died following a single-vehicle crash in Co Clare in the early hours of Tuesday.

The incident occurred at about 12.30am at Annagh, Miltown Malbay. The woman, who was the driver and sole occupant of the car involved in the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her body was removed to Limerick University Hospital, where gardaí say a postmortem will take place at a later date.

The road has been closed to facilitate an exam by Garda forensic collision investigators, and local diversions are in place.

Gardaí have appealed for witnesses – particularly road users who may have camera footage – to come forward. Anyone with information can contact Kilrush Garda station (065 908 0550), the confidential line (1800 666 111), or any Garda station.

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