TEXAS (KMID/KPEJ)- Texas lawmakers are considering legislation to ban private businesses from requiring their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a vaccine that has been at the center of controversy and debate about its safety and effectiveness since it was first released in late 2020.

The legislation would fine employers up to $10,000 if they take adverse action against employees or job applicants who refuse the vaccine. It’s on of Governor Greg Abbott’s top priorities, but the proposal is opposed by more than a dozen of the state’s largest business groups. The bill’s sponsor says the goal is to protect medical autonomy for Texas workers.

“I believe strongly that no Texas should lose their right to work. No Texas should be fired because of their refusal, for whatever reason, religious, medical, reason of conscience to get the vaccine,” said Republican State Representative Jeff Leach, of Plano.

The bill offers no exceptions for doctors’ offices, clinics or other health facilities. Senators agreed to let those entities require unvaccinated employees to wear personal protective gear or take other “reasonable” measures to manage the spread. The bill passed in a 19-12 party line vote out of the Senate just after midnight and is now headed to the House.

The legislation only applies to COVID-19 vaccines and does not address other immunizations like the flu.

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