The U.S. States Where Covid Vaccine Mandates Are Banned and Allowed

Vaccine mandates continue to be a topic of contention in the U.S. after Texas governor Greg Abbott this week failed to pass a new bill into legislature that would have banned employers from mandating such measures.

Abbott's Senate Bill 51 would have blocked any Texas entity, including hospital and private businesses, from requiring COVID vaccines for their staff.

However, the bill faced issues after businesses spoke out against the proposals. The bill did not end up with enough votes to pass in the upper chamber before lawmakers adjourned on Tuesday morning this week.

It should be noted, though, that the failed legislation is not the same as an earlier executive order that was issued by Abbott earlier this month, which banned any Texas entity from requiring COVID vaccines not only for staff but also for customers. The legislature would have simply expanded on this.

So vaccine mandates are still effectively banned in Texas, despite the legislature failing to pass.

Complications such as this make it difficult to follow which states have actually banned vaccine mandates, which have simply restricted them, and to what extent.

The U.S. National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), which tracks vaccine mandates across the country, provides information on what sort of mandate bans are in place between states.

Only two states, Montana and Texas, have a private employer vaccine mandate ban in place as of October 8.

Eight states, Montana, Utah, Texas, Michigan, Indiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia, have a state worker vaccine mandate ban in place. The same eight also ban school mandates, NASHP states.

And a total of 21 states ban 'vaccine passports' to some extent according to NASHP, though the extent to which this is enforced will vary. These states are Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Alaska, Mississippi, Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.

Some states have gone in the other direction. In New York City, for example, everyone aged 12 or above is required to show identification and proof of at least one vaccine dose if they want to access establishments for indoor dining, nightclubs, coffee shops, and bars.

This also includes gyms, movie theaters, and music venues. It's called the Key to NYC and also means employees at these establishments must be vaccinated.

Passports are also in place in Hawaii and California, according to NASHP.

Meanwhile a total of 19 states mandate vaccines for state workers. These include Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts.

Abbott's efforts to legislate against employer vaccine mandates contrast with those of President Joe Biden, who last month announced that all federal contractors must have all employers vaccinated against COVID. He also said that private businesses with more than 100 staff must either require staff vaccination or require regular testing.

New York City vaccine mandate
A sign in New York City reminding customers of the need to provide proof of vaccination, pictured in August 2021. Some states have banned vaccine passports and employee mandates. Spencer Platt/Getty