Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bans COVID vaccine mandates
Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any Texas government entity and urged state lawmakers to pass it into law during the ongoing special session.
Why it matters: The announcement comes as Texas grapples with a massive surge in coronavirus cases and as the state reported the most COVID hospitalizations since the pandemic began.
Driving the news: The Republican governor took the action in response to the FDA granting full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for those ages 16 and older.
- He previously banned vaccine passports implemented after emergency use authorizations.
- "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," Abbott said in a statement.
By the numbers: Texas saw 14,255 COVID hospitalizations on Wednesday, surpassing the Jan. 11 record of 14,218, AP notes.
- 79% of Texas' 85,874 ICU beds are full, with 30% of them being COVID cases, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The big picture: Abbott last week asked hospitals to delay nonessential medical procedures to free up hospital beds for COVID patients.
- But he continues to vehemently fight against mandated public health measures for and masks.
- The Texas Education Agency temporarily stopped enforcing Abbott's ban on public school districts imposing mask mandates due to ongoing litigation challenging the order.
Of note: A CDC study out this week found unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID.