Days after testing positive for the coronavirus, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Wednesday banning any state or local mandates requiring people to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He further called on Texas legislators to vote it into law during their current special session.
The new order blocks governments from mandating vaccinations, even if the COVID-19 vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Meanwhile, the move came as Texas reported the most COVID-19 patients in its hospitals since the pandemic began, according to Associated Press inputs.
Abbott issued his ban to fill a loophole in a previous executive order left by the full authorisation of the Pfizer vaccine. Earlier, he had banned the requirement of vaccinations under emergency use authorisations.
The Republican also has banned state and local government mandates for wearing masks.
"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," he said on the governor's office website.
The Abbott mask mandate ban has been ignored by nine counties, dozens of school districts, and the city of El Paso, while several of the state's most populated counties have requested court orders to invalidate or prevent implementation of the ban. Dallas County became the latest to win a court injunction barring enforcement on Wednesday.
“Although this is an important victory, it’s really not a victory against a person or an entity,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county's leading elected official, said at a news conference. “It’s a victory for humans who live in Dallas County against the virus.”
A new wave of COVID-19 cases has been sweeping the state, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, prompting the wave of defiance of the Abbott order.
The Texas Supreme Court has declined to block restraining orders against Abbott’s mask mandate ban. Also, the Texas Education Agency has, for now, suspended enforcement of the mask mandate ban in the state’s public school systems.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 79% of the 85,874 Texas intensive-care unit beds are full, about 30% of them with COVID-19 cases, according to AP reports.
With inputs from the Associated Press