AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies, local governments, and public and private entities receiving public funds from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
"We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms," he said.
The order does not apply to assisted living and long-term care facilities. Abbott says the order will supersede any conflicting local orders.
On Tuesday, many groups that receive "public funds" were scrambling to determine how the order will impact them, if at all. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which is owned by the City of Austin, has no vaccine requirements in place but anticipates future decisions will be made by the airlines or on a federal level, according to a spokesperson.
In a briefing, Tuesday White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki ruled out the idea of a federal ‘vaccine passport.’ "The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential," she said, adding "there will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential."
A spokesperson for Texas State University told FOX 7 Austin they were "studying the order." Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the University of Texas at Austin said "We have no plans to require vaccines — and we have not had any." Both universities are state schools.
St. Edward’s University, an Austin-based private school, is requiring students and staff to provide documentation showing they have been immunized for COVID-19 if they wish to return to campus this fall. Students and staff can opt-out, citing religious, medical, or personal concerns with the vaccine's Emergency Use Authorization, but they must obtain a notarized exemption document.
A spokesperson says the university does receive some state funding in the form of "student financial aid ensuring equitable access to higher education." A statement says the school is following "similar procedures" for meningitis vaccination documentation and exemption, as set forth by the Texas Legislature:
"The policy announced on Monday, March 29 provides exemption pathways supporting student and employee choices related to religious beliefs, underlying medical conditions, and concerns associated with Emergency Use Authorization. The university is following similar procedures for documentation and exemption submission as those established by the Texas State Legislature and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for meningitis vaccinations (THECB Rules, Chapter 21, Subchapter T, §21.612, §21.613, and §21.614).
In compliance with the Governor of Texas' Executive Order GA-35, issued April 5, 2021, the university's policy will not deny services to those submitting documentation or a qualifying exemption. Qualifying exemptions for students include declining to provide the university an individual's Covid-19 vaccination status. In accordance with CDC guidelines, regional health authority guidelines, and external medical advisors, vaccination and exemption status is instrumental in supporting testing protocols, contact tracing, and quarantine/isolation management protocols. We will continue to communicate our evolving health and safety policies and clarify any questions for our students and community as we work to ensure the safe expansion of in-person learning, teaching, and student on-campus residency."