Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order barring all COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the state by any entity, including private employers.

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Abbott’s move put him in conflict with US President Joe Biden, a Democrat who last month called on employers nationwide to order their employees to vaccinate or lose their jobs. Abbott is a Republican.

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“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and our best defense against the virus, but it should be voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in a written statement.

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The governor’s order states that “no entity in Texas” may compel proof of vaccination by any person, including employees or customers. Abbott also called on state lawmakers to raise the issue in the upcoming special session.

Tech giants Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google have both told employees they would need proof of vaccination to return to their offices. Both companies have a large number of operations in Texas.

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Fort Worth-based American Airlines, the largest US carrier, told its 100,000 US-based employees last week that they must submit proof of full vaccinations — or be fired — by November 24.

United Airlines imposed a vaccine mandate on its 60,000 employees, of whom about 9,000 are based in Texas.

The company is defending a lawsuit filed in Fort Worth, and a federal judge will hear Wednesday a request by United States for an injunction to prevent the carrier from sacking employees who requested exemptions from the vaccine mandate. Was.

Biden’s mandate was announced in September as his administration struggled to control the pandemic, which has killed more than 700,000 Americans.

Compulsory vaccinations have become an incendiary political issue in the United States, with many conservatives saying they amount to government redundancy. Proponents argue that they are important in stopping the spread of the highly contagious virus.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Tom Hulse and Mohamed Zargham; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)