Texas Governor Greg Abbott has banned any entity from trying to impose a vaccine mandate in the state, totally defying President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates. Abbott says that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine should always remain voluntary and never forced.
His office has also announced that “no entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination by any individual, including an employee or consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.”
Abbott has added the issue of banning vaccine mandates to the agenda of the next special session of the state legislature. The Republican governor notes that the order will be rescinded once legislation is passed. “The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” he says.
This statement directly opposes the announcement by Biden in September that any company with over 100 employees will be subject to a vaccine mandate. However, it is not yet clear when the Department of Labor‘s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule will be implemented.
Earlier this year, Abbott also lifted the requirement to wear masks in the state and signed an executive order in August against mandatory vaccinations for people who work in government agencies, including public schools and universities. (Related: Texas prohibits businesses from requiring “vaccine passports”.)
Texas courts are currently dealing with multiple challenges regarding the lifting of requirements to wear face masks. Multiple school districts have defied Abbott’s previous ban on mask mandates, and the state have filed lawsuits against the said districts.
Abbott previously tested positive for the coronavirus in August despite being fully vaccinated
This latest vaccination order comes as Abbott faces pressure from two rival candidates in the Republican primary: former state Sen. Don Huffines and former Florida Rep. Allen West. Both competitors are strongly against mandatory vaccinations.
In a jab against Abbott, Huffines says: “Mr. Abbott knows which way the wind is blowing. He knows conservative Republican voters are tired of the vaccine mandates and tired of him being a failed leader.”
Many large businesses based in Texas have come under the spotlight due to the vaccine issue. Because they are stuck between following federal guidance and the state executive order, many representatives for high-profile businesses in the state say that they feel federal laws, as well as employees’ and customers’ safety, supersede Abbott’s rule.
Dell, which is based in Round Rock, Texas, required employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing so they can work in the office. Employees or contractors who challenge the policy will have the option to work remotely, depending on their role in the company.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines has told its 100,000 staff members that they will be fired if they are unable to provide proof of full vaccination by Nov. 24. The same goes with Dallas-headquartered Southwest Airlines, which states that “federal action supersedes state mandate or law.”
Facebook and Google, which have large business presence in the state, have also told employees that they will need proof of vaccination to return to the office.
Texas has seen a decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but the rising death toll from a recent outbreak caused by the delta variant has pushed the state’s COVID-19 death count to about 67,000.
Debates regarding mandatory vaccination has become a polarizing issue in the U.S., with some saying it is necessary to tackle a pandemic and others saying such mandate is unconstitutional.
Get more updates about how the government is handling the COVID-19 pandemic at Pandemic.news.