AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday stopping any entity in the state from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of their employees or consumers.
“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 executive order, GA-40, reads.
This comes after the Biden administration last month announced sweeping vaccine mandates requiring all employers with 100+ workers to either mandate vaccines or test workers weekly.
In the order, Abbott says Biden’s mandates are “another instance of federal overreach” and the administration is “bullying” private entities into enacting vaccine mandates.
Some private companies have already issued vaccine mandate for workers, including some airlines. Hundreds of United Airlines employees face termination for not complying with its vaccine mandate, according to CNBC.
Some hospital systems are also requiring the vaccine. Baylor Scott & White required all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the beginning of this month, unless granted an exemption. Ascension Seton says its vaccine requirement deadline is Nov. 12.
President and CEO of the Texas Hospital Association Ted Shaw issued a statement Tuesday in response to the new order.
“The time is now to set politics aside and let hospitals do what’s best to protect their patients. Texas hospitals strongly oppose efforts underway to hamstring them from being able to require vaccination of their own staff, many of whom are at the bedside every day with children and adults who are vulnerable to COVID-19. This political action undercuts the central mission of hospitals, and patients and staff cannot be put at unnecessary risk. Hospitals have soldiered on for months at ground zero of this pandemic. As experts in healing and saving lives, hospitals must have the trust, respect and flexibility to mandate vaccines in their own facilities to protect the people of Texas,” Shaw said in the statement.
Failure to comply with GA-40 can result in fines, according to the document. The order overtakes any conflicting order issued by local officials. The governor is also adding the issue as an item to the third special session agenda.
In late August, Abbott issued a separate executive order barring government entities from issuing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor a South Texas College of Law Houston, said the latest order will almost certainly create confusion for small, local businesses, along with larger corporations such airlines, with employees who cross state lines.
“Generally, when there’s a conflict, the federal law will trump the state law,” Blackman said. “I think Gov. Abbott knows that and is using this (new order) to set up litigation against the federal government in the next few months.”
KXAN spoke with Bob Woody, who owns several downtown Austin bars. He said he supports the governor’s move.
“I think it’s a smart thing to do,” Woody said. “The governor of Texas doesn’t want to hold us down when it comes to coming out of COVID and all the problems that it’s caused.”
Speaking in Chicago last week, President Biden continued his push for vaccine mandates, saying, “We know there is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of Americans vaccinated. It’s as simple as that.”