“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a 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,” the order reads.
It authorizes fines of up to $1,000 against violators, the maximum allowed by the Texas Disaster Act.
There are eight days left in the current special session, which Abbott kicked off with a similar but distinct request for lawmakers to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates for government workers. The legislature also previously passed a law that forbids businesses from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination from customers.
The order comes amid pressure from the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) and Abbott’s primary election challengers. In an open letter, RPT Chairman Matt Rinaldi asked Abbott to add a “comprehensive” ban on vaccine mandates to the special session agenda.
“Time is running out to protect vulnerable Texans who are having to choose right now between losing their livelihoods or accepting forced administration of a COVID-19 vaccine,” the letter reads.
“A number of our conservative legislators have already filed bills to protect these Texans and your fast action in adding this issue to the call is needed to ensure that the rights of millions of working Texans are legislatively protected and not further violated.”
State Rep. Candy Noble (R-Murphy) has filed a bill that would make it illegal for employers to fire, punish, or refuse to hire people based on their COVID-19 vaccination status, similar to current employee protections against discrimination based on age, national origin, or race.
State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) has also filed a bill that would make it illegal for companies or hospitals to require the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.
Abbott’s order says that it will be rescinded once a law passed by the legislature takes effect.
Don Huffines, one of Abbott’s primary challengers, quickly took credit for the development.
“After publicly supporting private vaccine mandates for months, Greg Abbott has reversed his position on the issue, caving to the pressure being brought by the Huffines Campaign, the Texas Republican Party, and many other conservatives across the state,” his campaign stated.
In August, Abbott’s office told The Texas Tribune that “Private businesses don’t need government running their business.”
In today’s order, Abbott references three previous executive orders that dealt with similar topics: GA-35, GA-38, and GA-39.
GA-35 stopped government bodies and private agencies that receive taxpayer funds from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of entrance or service — more commonly called “vaccine passports.” It also said that no governmental entity can compel people to get a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization. At that point, all COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for emergency use.
Abbott combined several of his previous orders into one in GA-38. It barred governments from requiring emergency COVID-19 vaccines or proof of vaccination, ended local authority over operating limits for businesses, and banned mask mandates but encouraged the voluntary use of masks. Abbott included exceptions for nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
Finally, GA-39, his last executive order before today’s, banned vaccine mandates more totally. Issued shortly after the federal government gave full approval to the first COVID-19 vaccine — ending its emergency use status — GA-39 broadened the vaccine mandate ban to apply to all COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of whether they’ve gained emergency or full authorization.
Abbott has strongly encouraged Texans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but stressed that the vaccination should be voluntary.
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