ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- While the coronavirus pandemic may feel like part of the very distant past, concerns have grown in recent weeks, amid another new variant and reports of a rise in COVID-19 cases, that the country’s top officials may once again recommend mask wearing and vaccinations. These concerns have been echoed across social media with status updates reading, “I will not comply.”
In a proactive manner, on Tuesday, the City of Odessa became the first city in Texas to ban all COVID vaccine mandates and said it will not enforce other mandates handed down.
“What they, in essence, passed last night was a medical freedom bill they said if mandates come down from the state or federal government, the City of Odessa, we’re not going to enforce them, we’re not gonna tell you that you have to wear a mask which by the way the science didn’t prove to be effective we’re not gonna tell you you have to go get a vaccine, none of that has proven to be effective. I’m so proud to be here with this council, with council members like councilman Hanie who had the guts to go out and put this resolution forward to say we’re not gonna do this again,” said City Manager John Beckmeyer.
In its resolution presented, by Council Member Chris Hanie, Odessa adopted provisions from the Texas COVID Vaccine Freedom Act, which was filed by State Representative Brian Harrison, who previously served as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Trump and helped launch Operation Warp Speed.
Representative Harrison filed the Texas COVID Vaccine Freedom Act in October 2021, hours after being sworn in, and again in November 2022. It would ban all COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Texas by confirming the rights of Texans to give informed consent before receiving this medical treatment, making it illegal to administer a COVID-19 vaccine without receiving informed consent, and protecting employees from being fired for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine.
The bill garnered wide support among the public, stakeholders, and his colleagues. After passing the Senate Chamber (20-11 vote) and the House Public Health Committee (10-1 vote) with bi-partisan support, the bill was prevented from getting to the House floor by the House Calendars Committee, who instead decided to focus on the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Despite the City’s resolution, certain workers still won’t be protected from certain mandates. Employers throughout Texas, such as CVS and virtually all healthcare entities, still require COVID-19 vaccines for employment. Without a state law, such as the one Harris tried to pass banning these mandates, Texans have no protection and will continue to be fired if not vaccinated.