In a surprising turn of events, one of the largest institutions in the red state of Texas has implemented vaccine mandates, prompting concerns about the diminishing state of health freedom. While a law that would provide Texans with vaccine choice remains stalled by lawmakers, the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), a renowned medical school and research center in Houston, Texas, announced last week that it will require the latest COVID booster shot for its students, faculty, and employees.
According to a statement from the school, an updated COVID vaccine has been approved by the FDA and is now available. The updated dose, recommended for individuals 6 months and older, offers better protection against the currently circulating strains. Baylor faculty, staff, and students are required to get the COVID vaccine, unless they apply for a medical, religious, or personal exemption by November 30. Although BCM does not have a mask mandate, it suggests that individuals at high risk may choose to wear masks in enclosed indoor areas.
The implementation of vaccine mandates at BCM has stirred controversy, especially in light of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s declaration that the state should be leading the fight against “COVID tyranny.” Despite the governor’s stance, publicly funded institutions in Texas are still allowed to enforce vaccine mandates. Although Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill 29 into law, preventing local governments from implementing COVID-related mask mandates, vaccine requirements, or business shutdowns, “The Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Freedom Act,” which aims to block COVID vaccine mandates for employees in any Texas entity, remains stalled.
Texas State Rep. Brian Harrison, a staunch advocate against vaccine mandates, is urging Governor Abbott to convene a special session of the legislature to protect patient rights. Rep. Harrison emphasized the need for the COVID Vaccine Freedom Act to be passed, stating that its passage is supported by the Senate, the governor, and a majority of House members. However, the bill has been hindered from reaching the floor by Rep. Dustin Burrows, who heads the Calendar Committee in the Texas House of Representatives.
— Mary Talley Bowden MD (@MdBreathe) October 3, 2023
Dr. Mary Talley Bowden, a practitioner in Texas and founder of Coalition of Health Freedom, expressed concern over the return of mandates in Texas, particularly in a traditionally conservative state. Dr. Bowden warned that Texans should not let their guard down, as mandates could continue to grow. She also highlighted the influence of Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, a vaccine advocate who works at BCM. Dr. Hotez has made controversial statements comparing vaccine skeptics to those promoting anti-intellectualism during the Nazi and Stalin periods.
Lawmakers in Texas who are pushing for vaccine mandate reforms are facing significant opposition from the powerful and well-funded medical industry. However, Dr. Bowden emphasized the importance of standing up against vaccine mandates, as allowing them at institutions like BCM could set a dangerous precedent. Representative Harrison, who represents Odessa, the first Texas city to ban all COVID vaccine mandates, condemned the move to block patient protections, stating that Texas should be leading the fight against COVID tyranny instead of experiencing “shameful” and “disgusting” actions. The stakes are high, and Texans must continue to question what mandates will come next.