New Law Prohibits Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates, With Exceptions
By Emma Freer

Thanks to advocacy by the Texas Medical Association, guardrails for patient safety are included in a new state law that prohibits employers, including physician offices and health care facilities, from mandating COVID-19 vaccines among employees. 

TMA worked with the authors of Senate Bill 7 to include an exception that allows physician employers to require employees and contractors who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear reasonable personal protective equipment based on the level of risk presented by the unvaccinated individual's exposure to patients. 

SB 7 prohibits an employer from requiring COVID-19 vaccination for an employee, contractor, or applicant, or from taking an "adverse action" against such an unvaccinated person. An employer is subject to a $50,000 penalty for each violation of the law, which took effect Feb. 6. 

TMA is monitoring the rulemaking process under way by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Jimmy Widmer, MD, an internist in Belton and member of TMA’s Council on Legislation, delved into related patient safety concerns while testifying on TMA's behalf during a Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing last fall.  

“As physicians, it is important that our patients have a safe place to receive medical care,” he told lawmakers. “Doctors’ offices in Texas should have the freedom to set their own vaccination policies in alignment with the best interests of the patients they serve.”   

Matt Dowling, TMA’s lobbyist on public health issues, says the version of SB 7 that ultimately passed during the third special session was much improved compared to earlier drafts, including one filed during the regular session, which would have increased physicians’ liability and exposure to potential lawsuits. 

“Since it was a special session, there was a very high likelihood that the bill was going to pass,” he told Texas Medicine Today. “So, any changes we could get made to it were a win.”  

Fortunately, state lawmakers were sympathetic to TMA’s concerns. For instance, state Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), an organ recipient, raised questions about the bill’s impact on business owners and the need to protect immunosuppressed patients like himself.  

“As we provide this freedom for [individual employees], which I’m supporting, let’s not lose the perspective that you’re also taking away from [individual business owners],” he said during the same hearing.  

For more information on TMA’s advocacy during the 2023 state legislative sessions, visit the association’s Physician Advocacy webpage

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Last Updated On

February 28, 2024

Originally Published On

November 15, 2023

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Coronavirus | Texas legislation

Emma Freer

Associate Editor

(512) 370-1383

Emma Freer is a reporter for Texas Medicine. She previously worked in local news, covering city politics, economic development, and public health. A native Clevelander, she graduated from Columbia Journalism School and the University of St. Andrews.

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