Gov. Greg Abbott Bars Vaccine Mandates in Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order includes private employers, which had been exempt from previous edicts against mandates.

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The governor of Texas bars Covid vaccine mandates.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas at the Texas Oklahoma football game in Dallas on Saturday. On Monday he issued an executive order that bars almost any vaccine mandate in the state.Credit…Jeffrey Mcwhorter/Associated Press

By Ethan Hauser and Azi Paybarah

Published Oct. 11, 2021Updated Oct. 12, 2021, 10:42 a.m. ET

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas issued a broad executive order on Monday that bars virtually any vaccine mandate in the state.

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has been among the most vocal political leaders in the United States opposing vaccine mandates. His latest executive order includes private employers, which had been exempt from previous edicts against the mandates.

“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 states. “I hereby suspend all relevant statutes to the extent necessary to enforce this prohibition.”

The order acknowledges that “vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans.”

Shortly after that order was signed, Facebook, which employs more than 2,000 people in the state, said in a statement it was reviewing the order “and our company vaccine policy currently remains unchanged.”

Professor Srividhya Ragavan, who teaches global public health at Texas A&M University School of Law, said the order will probably be litigated in court, as Mr. Abbott’s ban on mask mandates has been.

Courts in the United States have a long history of upholding vaccine mandates, Professor Ragavan said, in part, because people who oppose such mandates are not the only individuals whose rights the courts take into account.

“I may choose not to get treatment for cancer,” Ms. Ragavan said, “but when it’s a case of an infectious disease, your freedom has the ability to affect someone else.”

The order may be hard to enforce because of its broad scope and timing, said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. Companies that operate in multiple states will have to wrestle with whether it applies to them merely by having some operations in Texas, he said.

Some businesses may face “severe financial risk” if they already have mandates in place, said Mr. Blackman.

The order ratchets up an already deeply polarizing debate. On one side is President Biden, who has mandated shots for health care workers, federal contractors and the vast majority of federal workers, and has ordered all private employers with 100 workers or more to require their workers to be vaccinated or undergo frequent testing.

Mr. Biden’s actions reflected growing frustration with the millions of Americans who are eligible for shots but have not gotten them. In announcing them, he spoke of the need to “protect vaccinated workers from the unvaccinated.”

As of Friday, 66 percent of people 12 and older in the United States have been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database — a lower figure than dozens of other countries have achieved.

10,000
20,000 cases
Mar. 2020

Apr.

May

Jun.

Jul.

Aug.

Sept.

Oct.

Nov.

Dec.

Jan.

Feb.

Mar. 2021

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May

Jun.

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7-day average

7,232

About this data
Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data.

On the other side are the Republican governors of Texas, Florida and other states who now adamantly oppose any measures that would require vaccines or masks, saying they infringe on personal liberties. Their bans on mandates have been making their way through the courts for months.

A Texas hospital, Houston Methodist, was one of the first large health care facilities in the country to enforce a vaccine mandate in June, when more than 150 staff members were fired or resigned.

Facebook and Google, which maintain significant campuses in Texas, had said before Monday’s order that they would require proof of vaccination for employees to return to their offices.

American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, announced on Friday that more than 100,000 U.S.-based employees must get vaccinated.

J. David Goodman contributed reporting.

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