TEXAS — Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday issued an executive order continuing his ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning vaccine mandates and vaccine passports

  • Abbott's order comes a day after the FDA approved the first COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer

  • Abbott has asked the Texas Legislature to take up the issue of vaccine mandates in its current special session

Abbott’s order came in conjunction with a letter to the Texas Legislature, requesting the body to add an agenda item to its current special session to consider "legislation regarding whether any state or local governmental entities in Texas can mandate that an individual receive a COVID-19 vaccine and, if so, what exemptions should apply to (any) such mandate."

The legislature is currently in its second special session to consider election law legislation, among other agenda items set by the Texas governor. The session started on Aug. 7.

The executive order backs up Abbott’s July order “prohibiting the mandating of any COVID-19 vaccinations by any government entity in the State of Texas.

"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.

The executive order came on the same day that a state district judge ruled that Abbott’s ban on mask orders violated Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ ability to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jenkins earlier this month defied Abbott’s ban and issued a mask mandate for the county, the second largest in the state with a 2.6 million population. Several other Texas school districts, counties and other entities followed in defiance of the governor’s ban as the state grappled with a rise in infection rates driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Wednesday’s temporary injunction in Dallas County to Abbott’s ban is expected to be appealed. In the meantime, Dallas County will be allowed to issue penalties for those entities failing to comply with its own order requiring masks in businesses, schools and county-owned buildings. 

Abbott has been fighting any mask mandates in the state during the pandemic, saying Texans should mitigate the pandemic by exercising personal responsibility that would include voluntary vaccination, practicing social distancing and mask-wearing. 

Abbott, who tested positive earlier this month for COVID-19 in what appears to be a “breakthrough” case after being vaccinated, reiterated in his order that vaccines were “strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one” but will remain voluntary for Texans. 

Wednesday’s executive order states that no governmental entity can mandate an individual receive a COVID-19 vaccine and that state agencies and political subdivisions can't require anyone to provide documentation of a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place.

It also prohibits any public or private entity receiving or set to receive public funds from requiring documentation of their vaccination status, nor can such entities deny consumers entry to a facility financed in whole or in part by public funds for not providing documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination status.

The executive order will not apply to nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities or long-term care facilities, according to the document.