Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates regardless of a drug's approval status with the Food and Drug Administration.
Abbott's order came two days after the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The The Texas Republican's previous order prohibited mandates, but only for vaccines under emergency authorization, The Texas Tribune reported.
The new order largely deals with governmental entities, though a "public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds" cannot require a "consumer" to provide vaccination proof to receive a service or enter a place.
"I issued an Executive Order maintaining the prohibition of vaccine mandates," Abbott tweeted late Wednesday afternoon. "Additionally, I've added the issue of vaccine mandates to the Special Session agenda. #txlege involvement is important to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates across Texas."
The Texas Legislature is in its second special session, authorized by Abbott, to focus on 17 agenda items, such as an elections integrity bill. The governor asked lawmakers to consider legislation addressing whether state or local governments could issue vaccine mandates and, if so, which exemptions should apply.
Abbott's new order preserves exceptions for places such as nursing homes and state-supported living centers.
"Vaccine requirements and exemptions have historically been determined by the legislature, and their involvement is particularly important to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates across Texas," Abbott said in a statement.
A new state law followed Abbott's July 29 order to cover full approval for a vaccine, but the law was not as sweeping as the governor's latest order.
Specifically, there appeared to be the potential for cities, counties, and school districts to require their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
San Antonio Independent School District already had announced mandatory employee vaccinations, prompting a lawsuit from Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton.
District officials said Wednesday they will move forward with the mandate despite Abbott's latest order.
"We strongly believe that the safest path forward as a school district is for all staff to become vaccinated against COVID-19," the school district said in a statement.
Texas' private businesses still have the option of mandating vaccines for workers but are banned from requiring vaccination proof from customers under the new state law.
The Tribune reported that Texas saw 15,516 new COVID cases Tuesday and 13,666 hospitalizations Monday. The state's number of vaccine doses reported daily has been rising in, with 46.2% of Texans fully vaccinated as of Monday.
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