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23213 views   |   31   |   Last updated on Feb 04, 2022    COVID-19 Vaccines

Summary: With some exceptions, governmental entities and businesses that receive public funding or licenses/permits from the state of Texas are barred from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination status in order to access goods and services.

What Is a Vaccine Passport?

Section 161.0085 of the Texas Health & Safety Code, which went into effect on June 16th, 2021, prohibits any governmental entity in the state of Texas from issuing standardized documentation that certifies an individual's COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party for a purpose other than health care. This type of documentation is sometimes referred to as a vaccine passport. 

Can a Business Require Proof of Vaccination for Customers?

Both Section 161.0085 of the Texas Health & Safety Code and Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-39 address this issue. They both say that a business that receives public funds or a license or permit from the state of Texas may not require customers to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Section 161.0085 states the following:

(c)  A business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer's COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business.  A business that fails to comply with this subsection is not eligible to receive a grant or enter into a contract payable with state funds.

(d) Notwithstanding any other law, each appropriate state agency shall ensure that businesses in this state comply with Subsection (c) and may require compliance with that subsection as a condition for a license, permit, or other state authorization necessary for conducting business in this state.

This statute also states that Texas businesses are permitted to follow current public health guidelines regarding COVID-19 screening:

(e) This section may not be construed to: (1) restrict a business from implementing COVID-19 screening and infection control protocols in accordance with state and federal law to protect public health;

GA-39 states the following: 

Any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means, including grants, contracts, loans, or other disbursements of taxpayer money, shall not require a consumer to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine. No consumer may be denied entry to a facility financed in whole or in part by public funds for failure to provide documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.

Can a Governmental Entity Require Proof of Vaccination?

Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-39 on August 25th, 2021. With certain exceptions, GA-39 prohibits Texas state agencies and political subdivisions from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination:

State agencies and political subdivisions shall not adopt or enforce any order, ordinance, policy, regulation, rule, or similar measure that requires an individual to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the individual’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.

However, nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities may still “require documentation of a resident's vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.”

Note: Prior to GA-39, the Texas governor also issued executive orders GA-35 and GA-38 addressing COVID-19 vaccines.

Can My Employer Require Proof of Vaccination?

This question is complicated because there are orders and regulations regarding employees at both the state and federal levels. Find details in our other FAQ, Can I be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Can my employer fire me if I don't get vaccinated?

For more details on Texas and federal laws on COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the Vaccines page of our COVID-19 & Texas Law guide.

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