Abbott reminds TEA, school superintendents COVID-19 vaccines are only voluntary

Gov. Greg Abbott is reminding school leaders that the COVID-19 vaccine is prohibited from being made mandatory as a school entry requirement in Texas, a prohibition that’s been in effect since 2021.

Abbott sent a letter to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath and to all school superintendents stating the COVID-19 vaccine cannot be mandated as part of school entry requirements.

He did so after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the Centers for Disease Control recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine be added to immunization schedules for adults and school-aged children. While it didn’t create a federal vaccine mandate, Abbott said “many schools across the United States, including some in Texas, rely on CDC guidance to craft school entry requirements for students.”

He urged Morath and superintendents “to remind our state’s schools that per Executive Order GA-39, which has been in effect since August 25, 2021, no governmental entity in Texas can mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.” The order allows all parents and guardians to choose not to give their children the vaccine, which is still only available through Emergency Use Authorization.

Abbott argues the order empowered parents and guardians “to be the primary decision makers in their children’s health care … despite attempts at federal overreach into the health care decisions of Americans.” He said Texas remains committed to honoring and defending “the freedom of parents to choose what is best for the health and well-being of their families.”

The Texas Legislature also enabled parents and guardians to opt out of vaccinating their children for health reasons and reasons of conscience. These statutes still apply, including Texas Education Code § 38.01(c)(1), Texas Health & Safety Code §§ 161.004(d), 161.0041, and Texas Human Resources Code § 42.043(d).

“Regardless of what the CDC may suggest, in Texas, the COVID-19 vaccine remains voluntary,” Abbott said. “Texas schools shall not require students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason.”

The executive order prohibits all governmental entities from compelling any individual to receive a COVID 19 vaccine. It also prohibits all state agencies and political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing “any order, ordinance, policy, regulation, rule, or similar measure that requires an individual to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the individual’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.”

It also states that any public or private entity that receives or will receive public funds “through any means, including grants, contracts, loans, or other disbursements of taxpayer money, shall not require a consumer to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.”

The order also supersedes all conflicting orders by local officials and remains in effect until the governor says otherwise.

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