Texas governor opens new front on vaccine mandates

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is opening a new front in the war over vaccine mandates, setting up a showdown with the Biden administration.

Abbott on Monday issued an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any “entity in Texas,” including private businesses. That order conflicts with a forthcoming federal regulation announced by President Biden to require that businesses with 100 or more employees ensure their workers are vaccinated or get tested weekly.

“In yet another instance of federal overreach, the Biden Administration is now bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” Abbott wrote in the order.

GOP rebellion: Abbott’s move is an escalation in the Republican battle against vaccine mandates, something that many public health experts view as a key tool in the fight against the pandemic, given that voluntary efforts like incentives have hit their limits.

On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who like Abbott has also pushed back on local mask mandates and vaccine passports, floated the idea of a similar move against vaccine mandates in his state, though he said it would likely require the state legislature to act.

Public health perspective: Public health experts have largely praised the role of vaccine mandates as the virus continues to kill almost 2,000 Americans, mostly unvaccinated people, every day.

“We’re still at a high level of transmission in the nation and in Texas only one half of the population is vaccinated,” tweeted Peter Hotez, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. “We need all tools possible, including vaccine mandates, to close the gap and halt COVID-19 transmission here.”