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 the 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, 9:25 a.m. ET

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Monday issued a broad executive order 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 likely be litigated in court, similar to Mr. Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.

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. Biden is also calling for more companies to mandate vaccines as a significant portion of the American population remains unvaccinated. As of Friday, 66 percent of those eligible (ages 12 and up) in the United States have been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

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20,000 cases
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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.

The Republican governors of Texas, Florida and other states are fiercely opposed to any measures that would require vaccines and 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, became one of the first large health care facilities in the country to enforce a vaccine mandate in June, when over 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 over 100,000 U.S.-based employees must get vaccinated.

J. David Goodmancontributed reporting.

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