Prohibitions on COVID-19 mandates for masks, vaccines, and closures were passed during the 88th Regular Session. These restrictions were in Senate Bill 29, which added Chapter 81B to the Texas Health & Safety Code. The new law became effective September 1st, 2023.
Section 81B.003 prohibits state and local government entities from requiring vaccines:
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a governmental entity may not implement, order, or otherwise impose a mandate requiring a person to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The law also states that the prohibition does not apply if it conflicts with the final rule adopted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requiring healthcare workers and staff members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The final rule referenced here was rescinded by another rule that removes the vaccine requirements for these types of workers. This new final rule went into effect in August of 2023.
Prior to the new law, Governor Abbott's 2021 Executive Order GA-40 also broadly prohibited vaccine mandates.
In 2021, President Biden issued a series of executive orders and proposed federal regulations that required vaccines or regular testing for certain groups:
The majority of these orders have been now rescinded or been blocked in the federal courts.
|Federal employees||Vaccination requirements for federal workers were set out in Executive Order 14042 and Executive Order 14043.||Revoked in Executive Order 14099 issued by President Biden in May 2023.|
|Federal contractors||Executive Order 14042 required all federal contractors and subcontractors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4th, 2021.
The order permitted employees with disabilities, medical conditions, or religious beliefs that prevent vaccination to request accommodations.
|Revoked in Executive Order 14099 issued by President Biden in May 2023.|
|Healthcare workers at Medicare & Medicaid-certified facilities||The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that required certain healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Under the CMS rule, employees & volunteers of facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid had to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by February 2022.
Examples of these facilities include nursing homes, hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies.
|CMS withdrew the vaccine requirements in the summer of 2023. The final rule became effective in August 2023.|
|Veterans||In August 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memorandum in that required all active-duty and reserve service members of the Armed Forces to be vaccinated against COVID-19.||Secretary Austin issued a memorandum rescinding the vaccine requirement in January 2023.
Section 525 of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act required the Secretary of Defense to rescind the COVID-19 vaccine mandate within 30 days of the Act's enactment.
|Employees of companies with more than 100 workers||Required by a Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule. The rule developed after an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) was issued.
The OSHA rule required workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine or get tested weekly and wear a mask at work.
|The OSHA rule was blocked by a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2022.|
Private businesses may still implement policies requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This is according to guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC enforces federal employment discrimination laws. The agency issued employer guidance on COVID-19 vaccination requirements for workers. The guidance generally supports an employer's ability to implement vaccine requirements for employees:
The federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA and other EEO considerations [...]
There are certain restrictions based on federal discrimination and disability laws. Some employees who aren't vaccinated may be eligible for reasonable accommodations:
The ADA and Title VII require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who, because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, do not get vaccinated against COVID-19, unless providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.
Texas laws prohibit requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine (sometimes called a "vaccine passport").
State and local governments cannot issue documentation of a person's COVID-19 vaccination status. This law is in Section 161.0085 of the Texas Health & Safety Code:
(b) A governmental entity in this state may not issue a vaccine passport, vaccine pass, or other standardized documentation to certify an individual's COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party for a purpose other than health care or otherwise publish or share any individual's COVID-19 immunization record or similar health information for a purpose other than health care.
Sec. 161.0085 also says that businesses can't require proof of vaccination from their customers:
(c) A business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer's COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business.
A business who violates this law risks losing their contracts or licensure if they receive state funds or licensing. However, this statute does not prevent businesses from using other COVID-19 screening procedures.
Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-39 previously addressed this topic.