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SAISD Moving Forward With Vaccine Mandate Despite Gov. Abbott's Ban

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a patient during a pop-up vaccine clinic in East Austin.
Michael Minasi
A COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a patient during a pop-up vaccine clinic in East Austin.

Update Sept. 13: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a new lawsuit challenging San Antonio ISD’s employee vaccine mandate under Gov Greg Abbott’s new executive order.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Wednesday prohibiting government entities from requiring people to get any type of COVID-19 vaccine, even those with full FDA approval.

Last week the state sued San Antonio Independent School District over its vaccine mandate. SAISD superintendent Pedro Martinez had given faculty and staff until Oct. 15 to be vaccinated. He estimated at the time that 90% of the school district staff was already vaccinated. It has roughly 8,000 employees.

SAISD officials said they still plan to require vaccines from staff, despite the governor's ban.

"We strongly believe that the safest path forward as a school district is for all staff to become vaccinated against COVID-19. We are moving forward with our request to have all staff vaccinated by Oct. 15, unless they have a medical or religious exemption," SAISD officials said in a statement.

Abbott had banned vaccine mandates in May, but the order referred only to vaccines that had emergency approval from FDA, as all COVID-19 vaccines do.

The school district moved forward with its mandate earlier this week when the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer Biontech vaccine.

Wednesday the governor signed a new executive order, GA-39, barring vaccines being mandated by government employers and banning private companies from making people prove they have been vaccinated to enter or receive services.

The governor's ability to suspend Texas health and safety code for previous executive orders are currently being fought in court by cities and counties trying to implement masking in schools and public facilities.

The new restriction doesn’t apply to private companies, which can still require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Abbott also added to the special legislative session agenda the issue of whether state or local government agencies can require people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and what exemptions should apply.
“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 press release.

This story was produced by TPR and KUT.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org
Marisa Charpentier