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Greg Abbott. Photo: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any "entity," including employers, if someone objects to the vaccine for "any reason of personal conscience."

Why it matters: The new executive order goes further than the Republican governor's previous vaccine mandate ban passed in August, which prohibited vaccine mandates by any state government entity or entities that received public funds.

State of play: Abbott has also submitted the issue to the state legislature's special session agenda. The executive order would be rescinded once legislation codifying it has passed, according to a press release from the governor's office.

The executive order also lists prior infection with COVID-19 as a possible medical reason for objecting to the vaccine.

  • "The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced," Abbott wrote in the news release.

The big picture: Abbott has fought vehemently against public health measures intended to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Go deeper

Nov 26, 2021 - Health

Updated data shows Merck antiviral COVID pill less effective

Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Merck said Friday updated data from a study on its experimental COVID-19 pill showed the drug is less effective than initially reported.

Driving the news: The drugmaker said molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 by about 30%, based on a study of more than 1,400 adults. Last month, the company said the study showed about 50% efficacy, based on data from 775 patients.

22 hours ago - Health

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday not to impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since been identified in several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new strain.

Nov 28, 2021 - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.