Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has signed an executive order prohibiting all organizations, including private businesses, from enforcing vaccination requirements in the state.
Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has been one of the most outspoken opponents of making coronavirus vaccinations obligatory in the United States.
He has previously issued similar orders, but this is the first time he has included private employers and their customers.
Vaccine mandates are seen by many as infringing on personal freedoms.
The governor has called on state legislators to enact a ban.
“The Covid-19 vaccination is safe, effective, and our greatest defense against the virus,” Mr Abbott said in a statement. “However, it should always be voluntary and never coerced.”
This will place him against Democrat President Joe Biden, who last month called on businesses to make obligatory immunizations for their employees.
The need to wear masks in the state was abolished earlier this year by the governor. In August, he signed an executive order prohibiting forced vaccinations for government employees, including those who work in public schools and colleges.
The removal of the need to wear facemasks is being challenged in Texas courts.
Mr Abbott tested positive for coronavirus in August, following a spike in hospital admissions throughout the state. He attributed his fast recovery to the fact that he was completely vaccinated.
Mr Abbott is under fire from two alternative contenders in the Republican primary next year: former state senator Don Huffines and former Florida Congressman Allen West. Mandatory immunizations are fiercely opposed by both rivals.
“[Mr Abbott] is aware of the direction in which the wind is blowing. He understands that conservative Republican supporters are fed up with vaccination requirements and with him as a failing leader “Mr Huffines sent out a tweet.
Many large businesses with a presence in Texas have also been criticized as a result of the situation.
Last Monday, American Airlines, the largest US carrier, informed its 100,000 employees that if they did not produce proof of complete immunization by November 24, they would be sacked.
Employees at Facebook and Google, who employ a big number of people in the state, have also been warned that evidence of vaccination is required before returning to work.
In the United States, the debate over forced vaccinations has polarized opinion. Critics believe they’re unlawful, but supporters say they’re necessary to combat a countrywide outbreak that’s claimed the lives of over 700,000 people.
In May, the Republican governor of Florida outlawed all vaccine passports in private enterprises, while Republican lawmakers in Montana outlawed “discrimination” in the workplace based on vaccination status.
Meanwhile, California became the first US state to mandate all students to be Covid-vaccinated in order to attend in-person classes earlier this month. The state has one of the highest immunization rates in the country, and all medical personnel are required to get vaccinated.