Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order banning all state entities, including private employers, from enforcing vaccine mandates, the latest escalation in the Republican’s resistance to public health measures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The order states that “no entity in Texas” can enforce vaccination against anyone in the state who objects “for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in a statement.
Abbott also called on the Texas state Legislature to pass a law with the same effect. The executive order would be rescinded upon the passage of such legislation, the governor’s office said.
The executive order is just the latest action from Abbott meant to hamper the adoption of public health measures that experts say are necessary to curb the pandemic. The Texas governor, who contracted Covid-19 in August, has previously banned government vaccine mandates, vaccine passport requirements and school districts from requiring masks.
“Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said in March when he lifted the state’s mask mandate.
His policies have drawn the ire of President Joe Biden, who has elevated vaccine mandates as an important tool to contain the pandemic and prevent future outbreaks.
“We’re facing a lot of pushback, especially from some of the Republican governors. The governors of Florida and Texas are doing everything they can to undermine the life-saving requirements that I’ve proposed,” Biden said in a speech last month specifically calling out Abbott and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
“This is the worst kind of politics because it’s putting the lives of citizens of their states, especially children, at risk. And I refuse to give in to it,” the President said at the time.