The move came days after the Food and Drug Administration gave full authorization to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, removing it from its prior emergency use authorization. (Both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines remain under an emergency use authorization.)
Abbott moved quickly to amend an executive order he had signed just last month that said that there could be no government vaccine mandate for any of the three vaccines — all of which were, at the time, under an emergency use authorization. He wanted to make sure that there was no room for any attempt to mandate a fully authorized vaccine.
All of which brings me to this simple point: Doesn’t Abbott have anything better to do?
I mean, he is the governor of one of the largest states in the country. A state that is identified as a hotspot for Covid-19 cases at the moment — and where some counties, particularly in its southern and eastern counties, are averaging more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents, according to The New York Times.
Rather than putting in place mitigation measures to slow the spread, Abbott is too busy virtue-signaling to the national Trumpist base.
Last month, Abbott issued an executive order barring schools from mandating that students wear masks despite the fact that the Delta variant is spreading through youth populations, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
And when local school jurisdictions in San Antonio bucked that mandate and required masks, Abbott’s administration took them to court. Last week, the Texas Supreme Court sided with Abbott, blocking any attempt to mandate mask wearing in schools in the state.
You should think of Abbott’s actions on masks and vaccines in the same vein — they are both aimed at the same goal: Endearing himself to potential voters and donors in the 2024 presidential race. Abbott, who is up for another term next November and has already amassed a huge campaign war chest ($55 million!!) for that race, has one eye on the next Republican presidential primary.
He’s watched, unhappily, as another southern state governor — Florida’s Ron DeSantis — surged to the front of the 2024 pack of candidates not named Donald Trump. DeSantis’ surge came directly as a result of his reluctance to close the state amid the original Covid-19 outbreak, his quick reopening of the state and his open skepticism of the science on mitigation practices — most notably masking.
But as Florida has become the epicenter of the fourth wave of the coronavirus, DeSantis’ star has dimmed somewhat. (A new Quinnipiac University poll showed that six in 10 Floridians didn’t want him to run for president in 2024.)
Enter Abbott and his high-profile executive orders trying to keep government entities from mandating a vaccine that is 90%+ effective and which, according to medical experts, is our only really path out of this pandemic. And his legal fight with school districts that want to protect kids by having them wear masks to school.
Abbott’s moves of late signify that what should be a public health discussion has been entirely infiltrated — and corrupted — by politics. And unfortunately, that reality will cause hospitalizations — and even deaths — that were entirely preventable.