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Achieving 70% COVID-19 Immunization Coverage by mid-2022

January 1, 2022 6:17 p.m.

The Independent Allocation of Vaccines Group (IAVG) has issued a set of recommendations to make the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines more equitable and more effective.

The group was established a year ago, to validate and assess vaccine allocations recommended by WHO’s and Gavi’s Joint Allocation Taskforce (JAT) of COVAX. Since then, much has changed. COVAX was envisioned to be the world’s primary distributor of COVID-19 vaccines, with IAVG serving as an independent referee for needs-based allocations. But rich nations largely sidestepped COVAX, hoarding doses for their own populations and cutting deals directly with low- and middle-income countries. This has made subsequent allocation decisions even more challenging.

The IAVG is concerned that the primary priority use of available vaccines is not consistent with the goals outlined in the Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by Mid-2022 in October 2021.  The group also notes that it has validated the allocation of only 730 million of the estimated 8 billion doses of vaccine that have been administered globally, which is less than 10%.  The rapid emergence of the Omicron variant is a stark reminder of the ongoing threat posed by the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and reinforces the critical need to achieve high levels of immunization coverage in all countries, including in highly vulnerable populations, in a timely manner. 

The IAVG is therefore calling for:

Achievement of 70% coverage with COVID-19 vaccines in all countries as a global imperative. 

As the overall vaccine supply to COVAX is anticipated to continue to grow substantially next year, COVAX will have a greater opportunity to contribute to achieving this goal. Manufacturers, vaccine-producing and high-coverage countries must prioritize vaccine equity and transparency, including the sharing of information about manufacturing capacity and supply schedules with COVAX, as well as vaccine access plans. 

All countries to work with COVAX with considerable urgency to optimize the strategic use of the growing vaccine supply. 

This means that high-coverage countries will need to establish complementary, “dual-track” approaches that consider both domestic and international goals.

Greater attention must be paid to who is being immunized. Equity must remain the overarching principle, and priority must be given in all countries to ensuring that the primary series is offered first and foremost to all adults and adolescents, in the step-wise manner recommended by the WHO, given that a high proportion of these populations still require primary immunization. However, as more is known about the required vaccination response in the face of Omicron, the need for booster doses and need to immunize children, the COVAX vaccine allocation decisions must consider these recommendations. 

Given the global health and epidemiologic consequences of failing to immunize vulnerable populations, including those in humanitarian settings, the IAVG recommends that COVAX continue to work with all manufacturers and countries to immediately increase the availability and uptake of vaccines in these populations. 

All countries to have a steady, predictable supply of COVID-19 vaccines, which meet the unique needs of each country. Attention must be paid to addressing prohibitive absorptive challenges in countries that request support

This may include support for vaccine storage, distribution, administration and/or record-keeping, which may in part be due to competing health and immunization crises [3]. It will be important to have close collaboration between all COVAX partners, donors, and participants. 

In order to increase demand for COVID-19 vaccines, ongoing, concerted global, national and local leadership is required to address vaccine misinformation. 

Background

The initial COVAX targets were to achieve 3% coverage, and then 20% vaccine coverage through COVAX-secured doses by the end of 2021.  These targets were then expanded globally, when WHO released the Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by Mid-2022 in October 2021. The new global target is 40% total population coverage by the end of 2021, and 70% total population coverage by mid-2022. However, these figures were from all country sources of supply, not solely from COVAX. COVAX would nonetheless contribute as much as possible to efforts to reach this coverage level in a fair and equitable manner.

None of these targets have been met. Ninety-eight countries have not vaccinated 40% of their population.  An estimated 1.4 billion eligible people  need to be urgently immunized, many of whom are in the highest risk groups for death and serious illness. These gaps have been most pronounced in low-and lower-middle income countries (LICs and LMICs), with 34 out of 89 Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) participants,representing the countries that are most dependent on COVAX to access COVID-19 vaccines, not achieving the 40% target. The main reason for this has been the severe vaccine supply constraints to COVAX, which persisted until the last quarter of 2021. In the forthcoming months, larger volumes of vaccine are expected to become available, but in most cases the increase  in volumes will  create challenges in absorption capacity in resource-poor settings. This includes the capacity to receive, store, distribute, administer (due, for example, the lack of trained health personnel or vaccination centers), and to record vaccine use, including wastage.

Another hurdle in achieving the target of 70% total population coverage in all countries by mid-2022 will be demand limits arising from widespread misinformation and its resulting vaccine hesitancy.

Challenges

The COVAX portion of the global supply – The original goal of COVAX was to achieve fair and equitable vaccine access across all 162  current Facility participants, and the initial role of the IAVG was to validate vaccine allocation decision (VAD) proposals that included all participants. Many high-income countries (HICs) entered into direct contractual arrangements with vaccine suppliers, bypassing the COVAX mechanism, and pharmaceutical companies did not prioritize and deliver according to their contractual obligations with COVAX, seriously reducing its supply and making it highly unpredictable. Moreover, high-coverage countries began donating directly to their low-coverage and low-income counterparts, bypassing COVAX. Indemnity and liability-related conditions are added barriers to the vaccine access for the most vulnerable populations. The IAVG has validated the allocation of only 730 million of the estimated 8 billion doses of vaccine that have been administered globally, which is less than 10%.

Additionally, many of the donated doses channeled through COVAX have been earmarked for specific countries, compounding the challenge of achieving the goal of fair and equitable access among lower income countries. 

With respect to vaccine allocation, the IAVG recommended and acknowledges that, where feasible, the limited COVAX supply has recently been dedicated to those countries with low estimated total population coverage which are likely relying solely on COVAX for access to COVID-19 vaccines. 

Unpredictable supply to COVAX  – 1) Procured doses – While those involved in vaccine allocation through COVAX have done their best to direct and redirect available doses, supply unpredictability has strained the system, frustrated participating countries and undermined the allocation decisions of the IAVG. Not all expected doses from COVAX advanced purchase agreements (APAs) have been honoured by vaccine producers according to contractual obligations. 2) Donated volumes – Similarly, promised donations by high-income countries have often been late to materialize or unpredictable. Unexpected additional vaccine allocation rounds have been undertaken after sudden announcements of vaccine availability through donations to COVAX. Worsening the challenge, these sudden donations have often included vaccines with brief expiry windows. These last-minute scrambles, a part massively increasing transaction costs, added considerable stress to already severely resource-strapped countries coping with many competing health and humanitarian crises, straining participants’ ability to plan for the receipt and use of their allocated vaccines. Beyond logistics, the last-minute deliveries undermined countries’ efforts to inform the general public about the vaccines and the communication needed to counteract the misinformation spread by social media. 

This way of doing business is not acceptable and needs to end. 

Across country and in-country inequity – The Global COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy clearly outlines the step-by-step process needed to achieve the immediate goal of minimizing deaths, severe disease and overall disease burden, and reducing the risk of new variants. Older adults and high-risk populations, all adults, and adolescents have been prioritized in a step-wise manner, while the broader scope of vaccine-use recommendations is still under consideration. For instance, 15 times as many booster doses are currently being administered globally as are primary doses in LICs. In October, the WHO and many other concerned partners noted that data from 119 countries suggest that by September 2021, two in five health and care workers (HCW) were vaccinated on average. But the differences across regions and economic groups remained stark. For instance, less than one in ten have been fully vaccinated in the African region while four in five have been vaccinated in 22 mostly high income countries.

The IAVG is concerned that the primary priority use of available vaccines is not consistent with the goals outlined the Strategy.  

More supply but more unknowns – Although the world is expected to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses by mid-2022 to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population with three doses, uncertainties abound. These include the possible need for variant-specific vaccines, changes to vaccination policies, country preference for some products over others, the programmatic complexity of managing multiple products, and the need for better intelligence on country-level planning and execution. (World Health Organization)

The uncertainty of the required vaccination response to the Omicron variant will necessitate ongoing attention to achieving fairness and equity while requiring flexibility in vaccine allocation and supply management. 

Highly vulnerable populations – Our collective health security depends on the health security of all populations wherever they are, and whatever status they may have in individual countries.  Among them, people residing in humanitarian settings (refugees, internally displaced persons) are at considerably increased risk of infection with COVID-19 [12] and should be covered by country vaccine allocations. 

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Niantic, NBA, NBPA team up for NBA All-World

June 29, 2022 7:31 p.m.

NEW YORK — Niantic announced a partnership with the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association to create an original augmented reality mobile game: NBA All-World. 

NBA All-World is a first-of-its-kind game that will place NBA fans into the real-world metaverse.  

NBA All-World is a free-to-play officially licensed geolocation basketball game where players can find, challenge, and compete against today’s NBA ballers in their neighborhoods, then recruit them to their team before proving themselves on the court.  

“NBA All-World represents an industry first in sports games, as an original, real-world AR game that will appeal to casual and core NBA fans alike,” said Marcus Matthews, Senior Producer at Niantic. 

“We’re creating and designing a game that empowers players to represent where they’re from and showcase the culture of their neighborhood.” 

“Through our partnership with Niantic, NBA All-World will provide fans across the globe the opportunity to fully immerse themselves into the energy and excitement of the NBA,” said Matt Holt, Head of Consumer Products at the NBA. 

“Evident in the name of the game itself, we look forward to engaging with our fans around the world through this captivating experience.” 

“NBA-All World gives us the opportunity to bring NBA players into Niantic’s real-world metaverse, opening up paths for fans to interact with them in a new way,” said Josh Goodstadt, EVP of Licensing for THINK450, the innovation engine of the NBPA.

“Niantic has proven experience building games that encourage engagement in local communities, and having our players integrated into NBA All-World adds to that immersion.” 

Additionally, NBA All-World will embrace the fashion of the NBA, with users having the ability to outfit players in the game with custom apparel.  

Players can sign-up to be notified when NBA All-World is available in their country by visiting NBAAll-World.com. 

Those who sign up will be able to experience an exclusive All-World AR web experience and be the first to be notified about securing their codename for global launch.

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8 facts about foodpanda on its 8th birthday in PH

June 28, 2022 8:23 p.m.

Thanks to online food and groceries delivery services, getting your food is so much easier now. With platforms like foodpanda, you can order instantly and enjoy a delicious meal within minutes. And nothing beats the excitement of getting a call from a Kuya or Ate Ka-Panda rider/biker/walker to tell you that your order has arrived.

As the leading quick commerce digital platform, foodpanda lets you order from your favorite restaurants and shops offering a wide variety of choices – meals, snacks, groceries, and other daily essentials. With 8 years of delivering food and more in the Philippines, life would never be the same without our favorite pink panda brand that has captured the hearts (and tummies!) of many Filipinos. But aside from satisfying your cravings, your curiosity will also be captured by these mind-blowing facts about the country’s go-to online food and groceries delivery app.

As foodpanda turns 8 this year, we’re treating you to some interesting trivia that you probably don’t know about them yet. 

  1. From orange to pink

                     

If anything, foodpanda is best associated with their logo – the pink panda. But you’d be surprised to know that it was originally orange before they made the switch to pink, back in 2017. The fuschia-pink look is definitely a lot of fun, and clearly shows that foodpanda is ever-growing, expanding, and not afraid to take that big leap to cater to all of your food needs.

  1. Leadership at a crucial time

Transitions are hard enough to begin with, but to do it at the most crucial of times would require exceptional skills – one that Daniel Marogy, managing director of foodpanda Philippines, proved to have when he joined the team a day before the lockdown. “That was a very challenging time for me, but it was made bearable because of the competitive foodpanda team led by very compassionate leaders and dedicated team members who helped me steer the ship in the right direction,” shares Dan.

  1. Revolutionizing  the food delivery space

foodpanda was the first online delivery service in the Philippines to house all of your favorite restaurants in an app and deliver food right at your doorstep with just a few taps on your mobile phone. Before foodpanda, do you remember how you would collect delivery hotline numbers, so you know who to call when ordering food? Or how frustrating it is that some of your faves are not available for delivery? Now, Ka-Panda riders not only deliver the meals you’re craving, but so much more – you can shop for groceries from pandamart, pick-up your ordered food if you’re in the area, or enjoy exclusive discounts for dine-in offers from their restaurant partners.

  1. Putting the digital in digital delivery

It’s called quick commerce for a reason because in as fast as 30 minutes or even less, your order is already at your door. The reason behind this fast delivery service, aside from having a massive fleet of riders, bikers, scooter-riders and even walkers, is that foodpanda pioneered the use of internet connection to their vendors. Prior to that, other online food delivery services had to manually use fax and call center agents to relay the orders to the restaurants, so imagine how long it would take. As the first one to automate the ordering process, they definitely transformed the way online food deliveries work so your food will be delivered still hot and fresh – just the way you like it.

  1. Shining the spotlight on “dark” kitchens…

The term ‘dark kitchen’ might sound a bit scary, but a delivery-only restaurant is all there really is to it. It means these food brands do not have physical stores; just take-out outlets designed to deliver only. For foodies who are tired of eating from the same restaurants, you might want to try foodpanda’s concept brands for your next meal. They are present in key cities in Metro Manila and the North Luzon area. (Extra fun fact: some of these brands are created by foodpanda so you can only get it exclusively from their platform).

  1. You can never go wrong with pizza and burger!

Any time is pizza and burger o’clock. It’s probably why these two fast-food staples hold a special place in foopanda’s 8-year journey in the country. The very first order to be placed in the app is none other than everyone’s OG snack, pizza, while topping the order list in the app are burgers.  As the leader in the online food delivery marketplace, foodpanda continues to offer food items that will meet the fast-paced lifestyle and current needs of their consumers.

  1. Employee #1 is still with them

Kristine Luneta, who is part of the Commercial team, currently holds the title of foodpanda’s longest-tenured employee. Like the company, she is also celebrating her 8th year anniversary with them as their employee #1. When asked what made her stay for that long, Kristine shared, “I am drawn to how progressive the mindset is and how connected the people are.”

  1. FP = For the People

Making a difference in the community is also part of the company’s advocacies. One of the many initiatives they do to nurture and help the communities they serve is the ‘BuyAnihan Palengke’ program, aimed at assisting enterprising Filipinos become resellers of fresh produce sourced directly from local farmers. To date, more than 10,000 kilograms of fresh produce have been sold to consumers at an affordable price through various partnerships with local government units since the program was launched last year. Watch out for their next food bazaar exhibit to get your stash of fresh fruits and vegetables.

For 8 years, foodpanda has been a prominent presence in the digital food space in the Philippines – and they vow to continue deliver food, groceries, and more for many years to come. Celebrate with foodpanda’s Pau-tastic birthday: be on the lookout for surprises and announcements for special treats made just for you!

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Hamilo Coast: Nurturing nature for 15 years and beyond

June 27, 2022 1:35 p.m.

The current rate at which individuals observe sustainability practices is far from halting climate change.

Whether it is reducing the use of disposable items or saving more energy, environmentally conscious activities will only yield significant results if everyone is “cast in the same mold,” so to speak.

That said, high-impact global sustainable development lies within the responsibility of the government and large organizations—conglomerates among them.

Understanding such a role, SM Prime Holdings, Inc., one of the largest integrated property developers in Southeast Asia, has incorporated its sustainable practices in its developments early on. 

Through SM Prime’s Costa Del Hamilo Inc., a leader in the leisure resort industry and the movers behind Hamilo Coast – this premium seaside complex in Nasugbu, Batangas, fosters a tangible connection with nature.

Marking its quindecennial year, Hamilo Coast looks back at its milestones and achievements with its core emphasis on sustainable development. 

“Sustainability has been at the forefront of our vision in providing a resort lifestyle. We strive to practice both environmental and social sustainability in our operations through our partners and commnunities,” Franklin M. Bolalin, Assistant Vice President for Hamilo Estate Management, said. 

Disaster risk reduction

Every year, the country deals with an average of 19 typhoons, with some often resulting  in damages to properties and loss of life. 

Coastal defenses such as seawalls and breakwater structures are often implemented to resist storm surges. In the case of Hamilo Coast, mangrove trees are the key.

Hamilo Coast’s 100,000 square-meter or equivalent to 10 hectares mangrove belt is one of the largest mangrove areas in the municipality.

The sustainable beach resort town has since planted 50,000 mangrove propagules, protected hand-in-hand with the conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines.

Biodiversity conservation

Apart from disaster mitigation, mangrove trees also benefit the climate by absorbing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and carbon dioxide.

This capacity nurtures the ecosystem and biodiversity in the area, providing habitat for a wide array of species.  

Hamilo is home to rich marine life and abundant flora and fauna. 

Its conservation programs and various sustainability initiatives have nurtured and conserved its precious biodiversity. 

There are about 96 various bird species found at the estate. Among these bird species are the rough-crested Malkoha and the Philippine eagle-owl.

From growing local plants to conducting regular coastal clean-up drives, coastal resource conservation initiatives are active in Hamilo Coast. With the help of WWF, they can increase their fisheries’ biological capacity and monitor their Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)—the Pico de Loro, Etayo and Santelmo coves which are among the three MPAs for Costa Del Hamilo’s Sustainable Development Project. 

Hamilo has been working with WWF since 2007 monitoring the health and viability of Hamilo Coast area. 

In recognition of its conservation efforts, Hamilo Coast was cited by the World Wide Fund for Nature as its longest Sustainability Partner in 2020.

“Over the years, our partnership with SM significantly contributed to the impact we are making in our work in Hamilo Coast. From liquid waste and coral monitoring, to our present work on integrated waste management and food sheds, we hope that this continuing partnership would help us realize our vision of making Hamilo a holistic model of sustainability”, says Katherine Custodio, WWF-Philippines’ Executive Director.

Green buildings development

The path towards a sustainable future is paved with many interventions, including zero waste, dematerialization, zero emissions and resource efficiency practices.

For its part, Hamilo Coast makes its intention to be a premiere sustainability community possible by making sure its buildings are designed with the environment in mind.

Some of the estate’s facilities are powered by alternative sources of energy. For example, its lamp posts use solar power more than traditional ones to function.

Natural lighting and ventilation are also noticeable in some of its residential areas, which benefits the environment as well as its tenants. Additionally, Hamilo Coast implements a solid waste management plan that consists of recovery of materials and vermicomposting, among others.

Sustainable living

At Hamilo Coast’s core is how a distinct beachfront home can harmonize with its surrounding environment.

As people crave for a more relaxed environment, closer to nature and the outdoors amid a work-from-home setup pushed by the ongoing pandemic, Hamilo homes give access to invigorating landscapes, coves to explore and the calming sea. 

Fifteen years later, Hamilo Coast has surpassed its reputation as a weekend respite.

It is now one of the best settlement options for people looking to live the coastal life in a sustainable community. 

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