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Third special session agenda shows Gov. Abbott's stance on COVID-19 vaccine mandates could be shifting

The agenda item is less prescriptive, asking Texas lawmakers to decide if vaccine mandates are appropriate and if so, to carve out exemptions.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the date and agenda for the third special legislative session, and one agenda item shows his stance related to the COVID-19 vaccine could be changing. 

The item states "legislation regarding whether any state or local governmental entities in Texas can mandate that an individual receive a COVID-19 vaccine and, if so, what exemptions should apply to such mandate."

Based on Gov. Abbott's past comments, actions and executive orders, this language has some wondering if he is shifting his stance on COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Rather than strictly prohibiting vaccine mandates, he's giving Texas lawmakers the ability to decide if mandates can be an option and, if so, what exemptions are appropriate. 

The governor's stance against mandates was first made clear in March. Gov. Abbott used executive order GA-34 to lift the mask mandate across the state, facing massive backlash from local governments.

The next month, Gov. Abbott issued an executive order, GA-35, banning state and local governments from requiring the COVID-19 vaccines which were granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration

In July, Abbott reiterated his position against mandated masks and vaccines with yet another executive order, claiming that the decline of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Texas is dependent on "personal responsibility rather than government mandates."

The special session call in August followed suit with Gov. Abbott's bill proposal to ensure COVID-19 vaccines remained voluntary in schools. Texas lawmakers did not pass the legislation. 

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was fully approved by the FDA in August as well, canceling out the governor's executive order in April. Only a few days went by before Gov. Abbott created Executive Order 39, banning government entities from forcing people to get the vaccine. 

Now, as Gov. Abbott leaves the decision in the hands of state lawmakers, Texans could see a change in vaccine mandates after the third special session, which begins on Sept. 20.

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