Austin Public Health considering legality of vaccine mandates following Pfizer's FDA approval

Photo of a woman receiving a vaccine
Austin Public Heath is seeking clarify on the legality of local vaccine mandates following the Food & Drug Administration's approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. (Courtesy Texas Children’s Hospital)

Austin Public Heath is seeking clarify on the legality of local vaccine mandates following the Food & Drug Administration's approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. (Courtesy Texas Children’s Hospital)

Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Stirrup said she has been in discussion with a city attorney regarding whether the federal Food & Drug Administration's approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine gives local entities the ability to enforce COVID-19 vaccinate mandates among constituents.

Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order GA-38 bars local officials from requiring COVID-19 vaccines "under an emergency use authorization." While the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still authorized for emergency use, the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the FDA on Aug. 23.

"We are still getting that complete analysis from city legal. The attorney I was conferring with yesterday said she needed more time to look into it," Stirrup told members of Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court during an Aug. 24 briefing. "What she said was it does give us some more leeway, but she believed there was something in the order she wanted to check out before she gave us guidance or advice, so we are working to understand what that means for us as a city."

While neither the city or county has moved to mandate vaccinations, Travis County commissioners voted Aug. 24 to approve a vaccination incentives policy to employees. Beginning Sept. 1, county employees who voluntarily show proof they are fully vaccinated will receive 16 days of additional personal leave, which can be used through 2023. Current employees who are not already vaccinated will have until Oct. 31 to show proof of vaccination, and new employees will be given 45 days from their date of hire. Those who have already been vaccinated may also present a vaccine card to take advantage of the incentives.

The city of Austin also voted on a vaccine incentives policy on Aug. 12, offering an additional two weeks of paid leave to any city employee who contracts the coronavirus after becoming fully vaccinated.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.


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