The implementation of vaccine mandates at one of the largest institutions in the red state of Texas has raised concerns over 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 medical school and research center in Houston, Texas, announced last week that it will mandate the latest COVID booster shot for its students, faculty, and employees.
“An updated Covid vaccine has been approved by the FDA and is now available,” the Sept. 28 statement from the school reads. “A single dose is recommended for individuals 6 months and older. Because protection from prior vaccination fades over time and this updated vaccine better matches the currently circulating strains the updated dose is recommended. Baylor faculty, staff, and students must get the COVID vaccine, or request a medical, religious, or personal exemption by Nov. 30.”
“Because of the concern in case numbers, some entities have reinstated mask mandates. BCM does not have a mask mandate, but if you are at high risk you may consider making a personal choice to wear a mask in enclosed indoor areas,” the statement adds.
In 2022, the number of employees listed at BCM was 11,288. The institution is within the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical center.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has publicly declared that his state “should be leading the fight against the COVID tyranny.” However, large publicly funded institutions are still allowed to impose vaccine mandates.
In September Mr. Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 29, which prohibits local governments from requiring COVID-related masks, vaccines, or business shutdowns. However, a separate bill, “The Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Freedom Act,” intended to block any Texas entity, including hospitals and private businesses, from mandating COVID vaccines for employees, remains stalled.
Texas State Rep. Brian Harrison, who has pushed for a statewide ban on vaccine mandates, told The Epoch Times that he is calling for Mr. Abbott to convene a special session of the legislature to protect patient rights.
“This is Texas. We should not tolerate this here,” said Rep. Harrison. “The governor should demand we pass the Covid Vaccine Freedom Act in a special session. This makes no sense that people aren’t protected. The Senate has passed it, the governor has called for it, and members of the House overwhelmingly support it. Now we need to do it.”
Despite support for the bill, it has been blocked from getting to the floor by Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives, who is in charge of the Calendar Committee, according to Mr. Harrison.
“The chairman waited until the very last day when a bill could be heard then he put it on page nine or 10 knowing that mathematically there would be no chance for the bill to be heard in time,” said Mr. Harrison.
“If not for his act, 30 million Texans would have freedom from COVID vaccine mandates and because of his actions Texans still have to choose between their health and their livelihood,” he added.
Mr. Burrows didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Dr. Mary Talley Bowden, a practitioner in Texas and founder of Coalition of Health Freedom, told The Epoch Times that the return of mandates, especially in red state Texas, is catching a lot of people off-guard.
“Too many people have fallen into this mindset that COVID is behind us and that we don’t have to worry about mandates anymore,” said Dr. Bowden. “Well, COVID mandates are alive and well in Texas and this could just be the beginning.”
“Texas is not as red as many people would think,” she added.
Dr. Bowden noted that controversial vaccine advocate Dr. Peter Jay Hotez works at the BCM where he is the founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine. Dr. Hotez has made statements comparing those hesitant to take vaccines to “the anti-intellectualism promoted during the Nazi and Stalin periods of the 20th century.”
Dr. Bowden says that lawmakers in Texas who are looking to reform the current system are up against a powerful and well-funded machine in the medical industry, but that the stakes are too high to back down.
“Unfortunately, a lot of Texan politicians who people believe are on their side have been captured by the medical establishment,” said Dr. Bowden. “We need to keep the pressure on because if they can mandate their shot at Baylor College of Medicine, and get away with it, it will embolden others. The question Texans should be asking themselves now is, what are they going to mandate next?”
Mr. Harrison, who represents Odessa, Texas—which in September became the first Texas city to ban all COVID vaccine mandates—called the move to block patient protections “disgusting.”
“Texas should be leading the fight against COVID tyranny. Instead what we are experiencing is shameful and a disgrace.”