Even as many of the vestiges of the height of COVID-19 restrictions have been or are in the process of being gradually removed from most Texans’ everyday lives, vaccine mandates continue to be an issue for some Texas employees.

During last week’s primary election, 88 percent of Republican Texans voted in favor of a ballot proposition rejecting vaccine mandates.

The issue was included on the primary election ballot as one of 10 propositions where voters were asked to select “Yes” if they agreed with the statement or “No” if they disagreed. Lawmakers will use the results of this vote to decide which policies should be prioritized during the next legislative session.

Proposition 3 on the ballot asked voters if they agreed that “Texans should not lose their job nor students be penalized for declining a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Another ballot question, Proposition 10, saw 93 percent of Texas Republicans agree that “our freedoms come from God and that the government should have no control over the conscience of individuals.”

Vaccine mandates became a high-profile issue in Texas last year after businesses across the state began requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination for both their customers and employees.

During the 87th Legislative Session, Texas lawmakers passed a bill preventing companies from discriminating against the unvaccinated. Under this legislation, companies were barred from requiring customers to show proof of their vaccination status before providing service.

However, the legislation did not prevent companies from forcing their employees to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or face termination.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order after the regular legislative session last year that officially prohibited companies from implementing employee vaccine mandates, but many companies simply ignored Abbott’s order and continued to require proof of vaccination.

After three subsequent special sessions of the Legislature where the issue remained untouched, a group of Republican lawmakers and activists implored Abbott to call a fourth special session specifically to ban companies from discriminating against their unvaccinated employees.

Abbott ignored these calls for another special session and instead pointed to his executive order as an adequate solution. Meanwhile, companies across the state continued to fire their unvaccinated employees and faced no consequences for ignoring Abbott’s order.

Christine Welborn, executive director of Texans for Vaccine Choice, expressed her thoughts on the potential impact of last week’s message from Republican voters.

“The vast majority of Texas Republicans made it clear they do not agree with discrimination against those that exercise their medical freedom to simply decline a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Welborn. “The overwhelming passage of Propositions 3 and 10 are a mandate to put medical freedom and vaccine choice on the list of priorities for the 2023 legislative session.”

With the 2023 session of the Legislature fast approaching, the results of last week’s election appear to show that Republican Texans are still concerned about vaccine-related discrimination.

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.