AUSTIN (KXAN) — Now that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has received FDA approval for people ages 16 and older, local government entities may have legal standing to mandate that all employees be vaccinated against the virus.
Last month, Austin Mayor Steve Adler asked City Manager Spencer Cronk to require all city employees to be vaccinated, however the city did not mandate vaccines for employees because of Governor Abbott’s current executive order.
The order states, “No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.”
However, now that the Pfizer vaccine is FDA approved and no longer being administered under emergency use authorization, some legal experts believe local governments may move forward with vaccine mandates.
“I think that we can understand the full approval as generally clearing the way for a mandate,” said Health law expert and University of Texas professor Keegan Warren-Clem. “That mandate would still have to have applicable exceptions, such as for religious beliefs and medical contraindication.”
“I used to work as a city attorney for the city of Austin, and I had to be vaccinated to go work at City Hall,” said civil rights lawyer Mike Siegel. “To me, that same kind of common sense requirement would apply to COVID-19. If we have a fully approved vaccine, school districts and employers should be able to require vaccination as a condition of employment.”
It’s Siegel’s opinion that if the governor tried to stop Pfizer vaccine mandates now, it would be illegal.
“Governor Abbott is using the Texas Disaster Act to issue these emergency orders, and those laws that he’s relying upon are about protecting lives, and this would be the opposite of that. This would be putting lives in jeopardy. So I think it would be illegal, it would be be irrational and it would be a bad choice,” Siegel said.
KXAN has reached out to Gov. Abbott’s office asking whether he has the authority to ban governmental vaccine mandates for a shot that’s FDA approved and whether he plans on issuing a new executive order doing so.
KXAN reached out to Mayor Adler’s office asking if the city would now move forward with mandating that its employees receive the Pfizer vaccine.
In a statement, Mayor Adler said, ““There is overwhelming evidence showing that getting vaccinated and wearing masks will prevent the spread of Covid. We continue to evaluate all available options and resources to keep our employees safe.”