Governor Greg Abbott told state and local education officials Thursday that Texas school districts cannot mandate a COVID-19 vaccine for students as one of several vaccines required for entry to public school.
Abbott’s directive comes weeks after a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine be added to the list of required vaccines for college students, which in Texas would be the one of a dozen required immunizations.
In two separate letters sent to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath and statewide superintendents, Abbott said existing state law overrides the CDC’s vaccine recommendation. On August 5, 2021, Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting government entities from issuing vaccination warrants.
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“Despite attempts at federal interference in Americans’ health care decisions, in Texas we continue to honor and defend the freedom of parents to choose what is best for health and well-being. of their families,” Abbott said in the letters.
Abbott’s order means parents can remove their child from a COVID-19 vaccine, according to his letter.
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Abbott continued to renew the state’s pandemic disaster declaration he issued in March 2020 — a measure that keeps in place the 40 executive orders and suspensions of Texas law he issued to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.
The CDC did not adopt its committee’s recommendation to include COVID-19 injections in its list of preferred vaccines for schoolchildren. If the CDC recommended the vaccine, states would still not be required to adopt the guidelines.
When the CDC committee announced its recommendation in October, state officials including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton rejected the proposal.
Paxton signed his name to a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services denouncing the CDC committee’s recommendation. Florida Attorney General Jeff Landry authored the letter.
What Austin Area School Districts Are Saying
Some Austin-area districts said they don’t expect the order to have much effect on their operations.
“We have always planned to do the Covid vaccination as a parent/student choice,” the Austin District told the American-Statesman, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. “Unless the Texas State Department of Health Services adds the vaccine to the required list, we will continue to support vaccination efforts as a parent’s choice.”
The districts of Eanes and Elgin have not required COVID-19 vaccines for students and do not plan to do so, spokespersons said.
Hays District follows vaccine requirements set by the state and does not have the authority to set its own policies, spokesman Tim Savoy said.
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The Texas Department of State Health Services, in conjunction with the Texas Education Agency, sets vaccine requirements for college students. The Department of Health Services said last month that it had no plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of required vaccinations.
Children entering kindergarten must be immunized against various diseases such as poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis A and B and chickenpox, according to the Department of state health services.
Students entering seventh grade must also have a meningococcal vaccine.
Parents can exempt their children from vaccinations if a doctor provides a statement with a medical reason or for “reasons of conscience, including religious belief,” according to the department.
In the 2021-2022 school year, nearly 93.8% of Texas public school children were immunized with all required vaccines, according to the department.