AUSTIN (NewsNation Now) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday stopping any entity in the state, including private businesses, from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of their employees or consumers.
“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 executive order, GA-40, reads.
The move comes as the Biden administration is set to issue rules requiring employers with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or test weekly for the coronavirus. Several major companies, including Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have said they would abide by the federal mandate.
In the order, Abbott says Biden’s mandates are “another instance of federal overreach,” and the administration is “bullying private entities into enacting vaccine mandates.”
Abbott, who was previously vaccinated and later tested positive for COVID-19, also noted in his order that “vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans.”
Failure to comply with GA-40 can result in fines, according to the document. The order overtakes any conflicting order issued by local officials. The governor is also adding the issue as an item to the third special session agenda.
Abbott previously barred vaccine mandates by state and local government agencies, but until now had let private companies make their own rules for their workers. It was not immediately clear if Abbott’s latest executive order would face a quick court challenge.
Texas has seen a recent decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But a rising death toll from the recent surge caused by the delta variant has the state rapidly approaching 67,000 total fatalities since the pandemic began in 2020.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KXAN contributed to this report.