Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Monday issued a broad executive order that bars virtually any vaccine mandate in the state.
Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has been among the most vocal political leaders in the United States opposing vaccine mandates. His latest executive order includes private employers, which had been exempt from previous edicts against the mandates.
“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,” the order states. “I hereby suspend all relevant statutes to the extent necessary to enforce this prohibition.”
The order acknowledges that “vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans.”
Shortly after that order was signed, Facebook, which employs more than 2,000 people in the state, said in a statement it was reviewing the order “and our company vaccine policy currently remains unchanged.”
Professor Srividhya Ragavan, who teaches global public health at Texas A&M University School of Law said the order will likely be litigated in court, similar to Mr. Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.
Courts in the United States have a long history of upholding vaccine mandates, Professor Ragavan said, in part, because people who oppose such mandates are not the only individuals whose rights the courts take into account.
“I may choose not to get treatment for cancer,” Ms. Ragavan said, “but when it’s a case of an infectious disease, your freedom has the ability to affect someone else.”
The order may be hard to enforce because of its broad scope and timing, said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. Companies that operate in multiple states will have to wrestle with whether it applies to them merely by having some operations in Texas, he said.
Some businesses may face “severe financial risk” if they already have mandates in place, said Mr. Blackman.
The order ratchets up an already deeply polarizing debate. On one side is President Biden, who has mandated shots for health care workers, federal contractors and the vast majority of federal workers. Biden is also calling for more companies to mandate vaccines as a significant portion of the American population remains unvaccinated. As of Friday, 66 percent of those eligible (ages 12 and up) in the United States have been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.
The Republican governors of Texas, Florida and other states are fiercely opposed to any measures that would require vaccines and masks, saying they infringe on personal liberties. Their bans on mandates have been making their way through the courts for months.
A Texas hospital, Houston Methodist, became one of the first large health care facilities in the country to enforce a vaccine mandate in June, when over 150 staff members were fired or resigned.
Facebook and Google, which maintain significant campuses in Texas, had said before Monday’s order that they would require proof of vaccination for employees to return to their offices.
American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, announced on Friday that over 100,000 U.S.-based employees must get vaccinated.
J. David Goodmancontributed reporting.
Fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries, including the United States and China, would be allowed to visit Thailand without undergoing quarantine starting Nov. 1, under a plan announced by the country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Health officials are expected to approve the plan, which calls for the lifting of restrictions for tourists from 10 countries. It would be the first step in a phased reopening strategy that would lead to the resumption of service at entertainment venues as early as Dec. 1, he said in an address Monday evening.
Before the pandemic, Thailand’s economy was highly dependent on tourism and attracted nearly 40 million tourists in 2019, with more than a quarter coming from China. Bangkok, the capital, often ranks in surveys as the world’s most visited city. Thailand was among the most successful countries in containing the virus last year. But it was slow in procuring vaccines and has seen a surge of cases this year.
The prime minister said that Thailand must learn to live with the virus, noting that other nations were already taking steps to reopen to tourists, and that Thailand must act quickly to lure millions of visitors for the New Year holidays.
Under Mr. Prayuth’s plan, fully vaccinated visitors from the 10 countries would be required to show proof of a negative PCR test before departure, and to take another test upon arrival. After testing negative, they would be free to travel around Thailand. Visitors from countries not on the list would still face quarantines and other restrictions.
A ban on restaurants serving alcohol — a rule widely flouted in Bangkok — would remain in place until at least Dec. 1, he said.
In July, Thailand began allowing vaccinated tourists who tested negative to visit the island of Phuket under a program called the Phuket Sandbox. After 14 days, they were allowed to travel freely in Thailand. That period has since been reduced to seven days. Thailand has increased its vaccine supply in recent weeks and launched an aggressive inoculation campaign, vaccinating as many as 1 million people a day.
“The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and disease,” Mr. Prayuth said.
New Jersey’s governor’s race, which is one of just two governor’s races in the country before next year’s midterm elections, is seen by some as an early barometer of voter sentiment.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, has tried to lash Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican challenging his bid for re-election, to President Donald J. Trump, who lost to President Biden in New Jersey by 16 points.
But New Jersey’s election also offers one of the first statewide tests of how voters feel about strict coronavirus-related mandates as pandemic fatigue mounts.
Voters surveyed in polls continued to give Mr. Murphy some of his highest marks for the way he has responded to the pandemic, and he has said he believed it was the most defining issue separating him and Mr. Ciattarelli.
Last week, Mr. Murphy refused to rule out a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for students, a step taken only by California, where, as early as next fall, vaccination will be required to attend school.
Still, along the Jersey Shore in Ocean County, where Mr. Trump won by nearly 30 points, it remains easy to find anti-mask yard signs that read “Free the Smiles.” And across the state some local board of education meetings have grown tense with parents opposed to mask wearing in schools clashing with officials who are required to enforce the state mandate.
A report released Friday by the Covid States Project, a research and tracking effort by several universities, found that governors of states with prohibitions on vaccine mandates, including Arkansas, Arizona and Idaho, got the lowest approval ratings.
In their struggle to convince holdouts to get vaccinated against Covid, governments around the world are embracing vaccine mandates.
The push to get people vaccinated has largely shifted from offering incentives, like cash payouts or free drinks, to issuing mandates and restricting the access of the unvaccinated to many venues and activities.
Want to work in settings like offices, factories, shops and restaurants in Italy? Starting later this month, you will need to have recently recovered from Covid-19, provide proof of having received at least one dose of a vaccine, or get a coronavirus test every two days. In areas of high coronavirus transmission in Greece, live music is returning indoors to restaurants and bars for a two-week trial, but the unvaccinated will not be admitted.
Since then, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities have announced their own vaccine requirements to engage in public activities.
As the latest wave of infections has begun to wane around much of the U.S., President Biden’s administration has increasingly turned to mandates, drawing fire in the process from many Republican leaders who perceive them as government overreach. On Thursday, he urged private employers to impose mandates of their own as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration works out the details of a vaccine or testing requirement for companies with more than 100 employers.
On Monday, Mr. Abbott signed an executive order that broadened a previous ban on vaccine mandates by barring private companies from imposing them.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” the governor said in a statement.
The A.C.L.U., on the other hand, has defended vaccine mandates, saying they protect the civil liberties the organization defends.
“They protect the most vulnerable among us, including people with disabilities and fragile immune systems, children too young to be vaccinated and communities of color hit hard by the disease,” David Cole, the national legal director of the A.C.L.U., and Daniel Mach, director of its program on freedom of religion and belief, wrote in a New York Times editorial in September.
Some organizations that encourage vaccinations feel that mandates could be counterproductive, like the Wyoming Hospital Association. Eric Boley, the association’s president, said that vaccination was critical, especially for health workers, but that mandates could drive away staff that Wyoming’s hospitals urgently need.
The German company CureVac announced Tuesday that it was withdrawing its mRNA vaccine for Covid-19 from the approval process in Europe. The company pulled the plug after determining that it might take until June for regulators to make a ruling about the vaccine.
With other mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech already in wide distribution, the company decided it was time to give up on its initial efforts to address the Covid-19 emergency.
“The pandemic window is closing,” Franz-Werner Haas, CureVac’s chief executive, said in an interview.
The company will also terminate its advance agreement with the European Commission to buy 405 million doses of the vaccine after its approval. .
But in the longer term, CureVac is not out of the Covid-19 vaccine business. The company is partnering with the pharmaceutical giant GSK to start a clinical trial of a new version of the vaccine they hope will be more effective. The companies are also investigating how to combine seasonal booster shots to work against both Covid-19 and influenza.
Founded 20 years ago, CureVac pioneered early research on mRNA vaccines along with the German firm BioNTech and the U.S. company Moderna. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, all three companies developed new vaccines against the coronavirus.
While Moderna and BioNTech moved swiftly into clinical trials, CureVac was slower to find partners to support its vaccine’s development. Nevertheless, some experts saw promise in the CureVac shot, hoping that it could help address the global shortfall in Covid vaccines.
The European Medicines Agency gave CureVac special priority for its application, cutting the time needed for authorization. But in June, the company made a disappointing announcement: A clinical trial found that the vaccine’s efficacy was just 47 percent. By comparison, the vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna had efficacies around 95 percent.
Despite that disappointment, CureVac went ahead with its application for authorization in Europe, and submitted a final data package in September. In its updated application, CureVac asked that the vaccine be considered only for people under 65 years old. In that group, the clinical trial had found a moderately higher vaccine efficacy, of 53 percent.
The European regulators’ response was less than encouraging. “We were not being lined up for emergency review,” said Dr. Klaus Edvardsen, the company’s chief development officer.
CureVac’s Covid-19 vaccine is now the seventh to be abandoned after entering clinical trials. Last month, Sanofi announced it was giving up on its mRNA vaccine.
But CureVac’s newer version may have more success. In August, the company shared the results of an experiment on monkeys, showing that the new vaccine generated 10 times more antibodies against the coronavirus than the original one did. CureVac will begin testing it in people in the next couple of months.
Dr. Haas said the company’s strategy is now “to be fast with a second generation rather than to be very late with the first generation.”