AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today directed the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Texas school superintendents that the COVID-19 vaccine cannot be mandated as part of school entry requirements. Instead, Texas law overrides a recent recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that added the vaccine to immunization schedules for adults and school-aged children. In letters to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath and school superintendents statewide, the Governor explains that his Executive Order GA-39, issued on August 25, 2021, allows Texas parents to opt out of the COVID-19 vaccine for their children and further empowers parents to be the primary decisionmakers in their children’s health care. Also, the Texas Legislature has enabled parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for health reasons and reasons of conscience through a number of statutes, including Texas Education Code § 38.01(c)(1), Texas Health & Safety Code §§ 161.004(d), 161.0041, and Texas Human Resources Code § 42.043(d).
“Despite attempts at federal overreach into the health care decisions of Americans, in Texas we continue to honor and defend the freedom of parents to choose what is best for the health and well-being of their families,” reads the letter. “Regardless of what the CDC may suggest, in Texas, the COVID-19 vaccine remains voluntary. Texas schools shall not require students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason.”
Although the recent CDC recommendations do not create a federal vaccine mandate, many schools rely on CDC guidance to craft school entry requirements for students. Governor Abbott’s letters to TEA leadership and school superintendents reaffirm his Executive Order prohibiting vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, as well as the Texas laws enabling parents to opt out of vaccines for health or religious reasons.