Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order that prohibits entities in the Lone Star State from forcing individuals to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they object to vaccination on grounds of conscience, religious beliefs or medical reasons.
"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 order states.
"The maximum fine allowed under Section 418.173 of the Texas Government Code and the State's emergency management plan shall apply to any 'failure to comply with' this executive order. Confinement in jail is not an available penalty for violating this executive order," the order notes.
The GOP governor's move comes as the Biden administration plans to issue a rule requiring employers with 100 or more employees to make certain that workers are either fully vaccinated or that they furnish a weekly negative test if they are unvaccinated.
The governor wants the state legislature to pass legislation along the same lines as his order.
"Governor Abbott also sent a message to the the Chief Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate adding this issue as an item to the Third Special Session agenda. The executive order will be rescinded upon the passage of such legislation," according to a news release. The special session ends Oct. 19.
Abbott said that vaccination should be voluntary rather than compulsory.
"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.
He had already prohibited vaccination mandates by state and local government entities, according to the Associated Press.
So far 62.73% of the state's population ages 12 and older has been fully vaccinated, while 72.54% has received at least one dose, according to the state's data.