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 . 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.
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.
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  and should be covered by country vaccine allocations.
URCC 81: Decades of Success happens Dec. 6 in Okada
November 27, 2022 7:22 p.m.
THE Universal Reality Combat Championship will celebrate two decades of greatness titled the “Decades of Success” in a fight night on December 6, featuring the country’s best mixed martial artists at the Okada Manila in Parañaque City.
Three years since the last time they held their last main event, URCC founding president Alvin Aguilar announced the coming URCC 81 will definitely be a night to remember with events like the 3 Versus 3, MMA fight and the bare-knuckle bouts.
“Our first main event in three years will definitely be an unforgettable night in mixed martial arts. We have a lot of good fighters and everyone is very excited,” Aguilar said.
The last time URCC held a main event — Retribution— was in November 2019, at the same venue. Despite the pandemic, URCC didn’t stop as it held three fight nights when the government finally allowed contact sports.
In celebrating URCC’s main event return, Aguilar will be having Team Philippines of Sugar Ray “Mammoth” Estroso, Caloy “Bad Boy” Baduria and Boss Bullet Manliclic taking up against South Koreans Jeong Minhun, Choi Wontae and Jeon Youngjun in an exciting 3 versus 3 event.
“We have to go up against other Asian countries before we start expanding. So we meet Korea then later on China again and then we will invite people from Russia and the USA. This is the fourth time we will be holding this 3 versus 3 fight,” Aguilar said, who also expects the other events to live up to the hype.
A URCC welterweight interim championship is also set between Filipino Arvin Chan and American Will Chope as the other highlight of the main event presented by Okada Manila and sponsored by Winzir.
URCC Global Chairman Arnold Vegafria said the promotions have been evolving since 2002, becoming a household name in the local mixed martial arts industry, where it discovered great MMA fighters and promoted quality fights abroad.
For inquiries about tickets sale, go to www.urcc.online and download app https://apps.wix.com/place-invites/join-lp/b4e05b90-55a0-40a8-8fac-17ccf4a2c074?ref=pre_banner_top which is available for iOS and Google.
Other MMA undercard bouts feature Dunlee Stewart facing John Tirona in a 170 lbs bout, followed by Gester Maglaque meeting Mariano Jones in an 185 lbs bout; Kimbert Alintozon battling Junie Kimayong (125 lbs); Rhyle Lugo clashing against Alex Aballe (145 lbs) and Eros Baluyot taking on MJ Abrillo (125 lbs).
For the thrilling bare-knuckle competitions, Damsa Abrenica collides with Joseph “King Pinoy” Cabral, while Dondon Serrano squares off with Sherwin Niro and Denzel Dimaguila fights Mark Jalaron.
Details of the fight and future fight cards are available to download at https://apps.wix.com/place-invites/join-lp/b4e05b90-55a0-40a8-8fac-17ccf4a2c074?ref=pre_banner_top, which is available for iOS and Google.
BingoPlus Foundation’s FutureSmart Scholarship Program 2022 funds 10 IT scholars
Nov. 21, 2022 12:51 p.m.
BingoPlus Foundation Inc., the corporate arm of leisure entertainment brand BingoPlus, has made education one of its causes to support with a PhP6 million scholarship granted to iACADEMY under its FutureSmart Scholarship 2022 Program.
Officers of the Foundation signed an agreement with representatives of iACADEMY to sponsor ten students last November 2 at the head office of Leisure & Resorts World Corporation (LRWC) at Tektite Building in Pasig.
With its specialization in the field of information technology, iACADEMY was seen as the perfect partner school for BP Foundation as it aligns well with the Foundation’s vision to create IT-competent professionals in the future. BingoPlus Foundation firmly believes that education and technology are important components of nation-building and has thus prioritized the FutureSmart Scholarship 2022 Program as one of its top Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of the year.
Through the scholarship, the Foundation aims to address some challenges faced by the education sector to provide more and better educational opportunities to the younger generation and thus leave its footprint in the building of a better society.
LRWC President Andy Tsui said, “We wish to inspire the younger generation and make their dreams come true.”
“We are truly honored to welcome iACADEMY as a new partner, and we’re grateful to be given the opportunity to contribute to keeping students on the path towards a brighter future,” said Jasper Vicencio, President of BingoPlus and Trustee of BingoPlus Foundation Inc.
The FutureSmart Scholarship 2022 Program will be launched in the current school year of iACADEMY.
Game on! SM Christmas Village is back—and bigger than ever
November 17, 2022 3:50 p.m.
We’re calling it: Christmas 2022 is going to be one for the books.
The past two years saw Filipinos dialing down on the holiday celebrations as we exercised caution against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It’s no easy feat, too, given that our Pasko is easily the biggest event of the year. The good—no, aweSM—news? This 2022, SM is set to give you a Christmas comeback like no other with the return of the SM Christmas Village, now on its second year!
In case you didn’t know: SM Supermalls is the very first mall in the Philippines to venture into the metaverse, giving you the first mobile brand rewards app that provides customers with fun and exciting ways to score amazing deals, earn free shopping money, and win wow-worthy prizes—anytime, anywhere!
And here’s proof of just how amazing it is: The pilot run of the ChristmaSaya Village in 2021 recently won four accolades at this year’s Vega Awards, earning nods for outstanding innovation in the digital and virtual realm. Wowza!
Enter the Mall-tiverse
Here’s how it works: To join, a user simply has to register for an account online via smmetaverse.world. Once registered, you gain access to the virtual SM Christmas Village, where you can explore different zones, interact with other players, and collect virtual coins to unlock exclusive shopping vouchers and earn raffle entries. And just like at SM Supermalls nationwide, #YoureAlwaysWelcomeHere
Excited for supercharged virtual fun? Here’s a quick look at what’s in store for you this year:
- Bigger rewards, bigger prizes
If you loved last year’s vouchers, you’re in for even better rewards this time. SM has partnered with more of your favorite brands to give you exclusive shopping discounts and deals (a total of ₱2M worth of vouchers are up for grabs!) and is set to give away a whopping ₱1M worth of raffle prizes. Plus, one lucky winner will drive home the ultimate Christmas gift: a brand new Suzuki S-Presso!
- An expansive game world awaits
Your gaming experience gets a level up with improved game designs and an exciting game world featuring new areas to explore—from shopping and dining zones to entertainment zones—like you’re really at an SM Supermall! Experience augmented reality malling, e-meet friends, and play fun games to earn virtual coins. Before that, have fun customizing your own avatar down to the hair, outfit, and accessories (shopping bag, included), so you can create a character that’s uniquely you.
- Enjoy fresh in-game features
Get your family members in on the Christmas fever with the multiplayer option and stay connected while you play with the new chat and video-calling features. (Looking at you, social butterflies!) Be on the lookout for pop-ups, too, featuring special brand deets and surprise deals with every visit.
- Earn shopping money every day
The more virtual coins you collect in-app, the more “shopping money” you get, which you can use to redeem vouchers from your favorite brands. Once you’ve claimed your vouchers virtually, you can use them at participating SM Mall branches nationwide—to pay for your Christmas shopping, dining, and more! You can also use your coins to unlock raffle entries and win one of the 20 major prizes at the end of the year.
- Visit the village every day to earn more coins faster.
- Excited to shop? You can spend your coins as soon as you earn them, but it pays to be patient, too. By accumulating your coins first, you’ll be able to redeem bigger rewards later on!
- Make sure to explore all the zones and keep an eye out for hidden treasures and bonuses.
A Christmas to remember
With restrictions easing up and COVID-19 vaccination rates at an encouraging high, this year’s holiday season surely is shaping up to be one to look forward to. If you’re jonesing for some real-life Christmas fun, though, you won’t be disappointed when you take a break from the metaverse and make your way to your favorite SM Supermalls instead! From the light shows and holiday centerpieces to all sorts of Christmas attractions, all things merry and bright await you and the whole family—and it all starts now! Check out all the holiday happenings here and have a #HappyChristmasAtSM!
The #SMChristmasVillage2022 will run from October 28, 2022 to January 5, 2023. Voucher redemption will be until January 31, 2023.
To stay updated on all things SM, follow SM Supermalls on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. SM implements strict #SafeMallingAtSM protocols nationwide and offers convenient shopping options via the SM Malls Online app, The SM Store, and ShopSM. (You can read more here.) For updates on mall hours and entry guidelines, click here.