A petition seeking to declare the Chinese vaccine Sinovac ineffective against Covid-19 was unanimously dismissed by the Supreme Court, thus declining to stop the government from purchasing and allowing the public use of the vaccine despite reports that some countries have done so. 

The petition was filed by former Boac, Marinduque Mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno asking the high court to demand that Sinovac and the other Chinese manufactured vaccine Sinopharm undergo the required trials in the country before they are given the go signal for emergency and/or regular use.

President Duterte, Health Sec. Francisco Duque, Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and Chief Implementer of the National Task Force Against Covid-19 retired Gen. Carlito Galvez were named by Nepomuceno.

In a 17-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Joseph Lopez, the Court sidestepped expert medical findings and unanimously held that President Duterte has been granted the discretion under Republic Act 11494 (Bayanihan to Recover as One Act) on how to address the pandemic brought about by the spread of Covid-19.

The law, according to the Court, paved the way for the President to exercise powers that are necessary and proper to undertake and implement Covid-19 response and recovery interventions.

“In the case of Sinovac vaccine, while many doubt its efficacy, it is not within the office of this Court to issue an order compelling the government to conduct further tests before the same can be distributed to the Filipino people,” the Court declared.

In his petition for mandamus, Nepomuceno sought the Court’s issuance of an order to compel the government to observe the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules on the acquisition, procurement and use of drugs, particularly on the issue of trials and procurement and use of Covid-19 vaccines, specifically Sinovac, and for them to properly observe the procurement law.

He also asked the Court to direct the Department of Health-FDA to issue a cease-and-desist order for the purchase and use of the Sinovac vaccine.

The petitioner asked the Court to demand that Sinovac and all other vaccines undergo the required trials in the country before they are given the go signal for emergency and/or regular use.

The SC noted that during the time when the national government planned to procure and enter into contracts for the procurement of the Sinovac vaccine, there was no law in effect that required the mandatory conduct of clinical trials for the procurement of any Covid-19 vaccine, including that produced by Sinovac.

“On the contrary, the requirement for the completion of clinical trials before a vaccine may be used in the Philippines as required by the Universal Healthcare Act was suspended for a period of three months,” the Court said.

 “Extraordinary times that present an invisible threat to the health of individuals, unbeknown to humanity, require an immediate, exceptional response from the government. This exceptional response must of course be in line with the guidelines and actions undertaken by an international central authority which, in this case, is the WHO and trusted international agencies,” the SC said.

“In all, petitioner failed to point out any provision of law that imposes a ministerial duty on the part of the respondents to perform an act in compliance with a specific mandate for conduct of clinical trial and procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, specifically that produced by Sinovac,” it added.

Doubts regarding the efficacy of the Sinovac jab could not be resolved by the SC as it is not an arbiter of facts, the high court added.

Twelve million out of the more than 20 million vaccine doses received so far by the Philippines were produced by Sinovac.

The Department of Health said on July 12 the Sinovac shot was effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death despite reports that fully inoculated health workers in Thailand contracted the respiratory disease.

The country also uses COVID-19 shots manufactured by Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Gamaleya Research Institute (Sputnik V).