Statement on executive order prohibiting vaccine mandates

Posted on 10/13/2021 by Laura Huffman, President & CEO

On Monday, Governor Abbott issued an executive order which states: “No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19. I hereby suspend all relevant statutes to the extent necessary to enforce this prohibition.”

The executive order was issued in response to the forthcoming OSHA rules that would require some businesses to require vaccination with appropriate religious and medical exemptions, along with an alternative for regular testing.

This executive order will cause confusion in the business community as it conflicts with the federal government and distracts from the business of economic recovery in Texas.

In response to this order, I have issued a statement respectfully asking the governor to rescind his order. The statement is to defend the rights of businesses to make business decisions about what’s best for their employees and customers. This is also consistent with our significant community leadership on how to best to balance public health while staying open for business. We’ve always been supportive of vaccines as the best tool to end this pandemic, as well as masking during the delta variant spike. This is about protecting businesses’ rights and public health, and we felt it was necessary and appropriate to speak out. Please find my statement below:

“This executive order issued by Governor Abbott banning vaccine mandates by private employers is a mistake. It is contradictory to previous orders the governor issued that reinforced the rights of businesses to choose a path that works best for themselves when navigating the pandemic. It also places businesses that are subject to the forthcoming federal government’s vaccine rule in an impossible situation where to follow one order would defy the other. A mandate against mandates is still a mandate and our businesses and community deserve better than this.
The Austin Chamber of Commerce supports the rights of individual businesses to continue to make the best decisions for their employees and business. If a business believes a vaccine mandate is best for their business, then they should have the right to make that choice just as those businesses that do not feel a mandate is needed for their business should have the freedom to choose that path.
Over the past 18 months, Austin’s business community has innovated to keep their doors open, people employed and customers served, all while prioritizing public health and safety. As vaccines became widely available, an overwhelming majority of people and businesses rejoiced as finally there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The Austin Chamber also believes that vaccines are the best tool we have in ending this pandemic and have encouraged the public to get vaccinated to protect themselves, loved ones, and the community.
As we await the conclusion of the inevitable legal battle that will surely be fought over this executive order, businesses will suffer, public health will be endangered, and our state will only be further divided. We respectfully call on Governor Abbott to rescind this order.”