Students do not have to receive COVID-19 vaccines to attend school, according to Texas law.

On Nov. 17, Gov. Greg Abbott sent letters to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath and school district superintendents across the state. In the letters, Abbott stated vaccination against COVID-19 is voluntary.

“Texas schools shall not require students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason,” he wrote.

At its October meeting, an advisory committee for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the COVID-19 shot be added to child, adolescent and adult vaccination schedules for 2023. According to the committee website, the recommendation has been approved by the CDC director.

However, the CDC’s immunization schedules serve as guidance and are not mandates.

In August 2021, Abbott issued an executive order that prevents government agencies from requiring Texans to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Additionally, state agencies and organizations that receive public funding cannot require people to provide documentation proving that they are vaccinated, according to the order.

The executive order, which is in effect, “allows parents to opt out of the COVID-19 vaccine for their children while further empowering Texas parents to be the primary decision makers in their children’s health care,” Abbott said in the letters.

Texas students are still required to be vaccinated against other illnesses.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, students in kindergarten through 12th grade must receive vaccines for:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis;

  • Polio;

  • Measles, mumps and rubella;

  • Hepatitis A;

  • Hepatitis B;

  • Varicella (commonly known as chicken pox); and

  • Meningitidis.

According to the DSHS, students may opt out of immunization for two reasons: if they have a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a certain vaccine or if their parent/guardian asks for an exemption for religious beliefs and other “reasons of conscience.” For medical exemptions, the student’s physician must submit a signed statement to their school.

For more information on existing immunization requirements, Texans can visit the DSHS website.