This story has been updated.

A lawsuit against the San Antonio Independent School District seems to have lost its foundation after the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to a coronavirus vaccine on Monday.

Last week, Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the San Antonio Independent School District on behalf of the state of Texas for the district’s coronavirus vaccine mandate imposed on all staff. In his lawsuit, he referenced Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order issued in July, which prohibited governmental entities from requiring people to receive the coronavirus vaccine while it is under emergency use authorization.

The FDA gave the Pfizer vaccine full approval Monday.

Paxton had requested a temporary block of SAISD’s vaccine mandate, but the lawsuit had not received a hearing as of Monday. 

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said the FDA approval was a “positive step forward in the fight against COVID-19 nationwide and a step forward in helping keep schools safe for learning here at home.” He urged people who had been waiting for full FDA approval of the coronavirus vaccine to go get their shot.

“Over the last 18 months, children throughout our community have endured so much,” he said in a statement Monday. “Now more than ever, they need safety and stability. They need to be in nurturing learning environments — in-person, in classrooms, five days per week. We’re encouraging every eligible resident to do their part by getting vaccinated as soon as possible. As we implement science-driven safety measures in our schools and listen to the experts as a district, the stakes for children and our community couldn’t be higher.”

The vaccine mandate for district staff is still in place, said Laura Short, SAISD director of communications. Martinez told staff in a letter Friday the Oct. 15 deadline he set for them hinged upon whether the vaccines received full approval.

“Let me be clear, I will not compel any staff member to be vaccinated until the vaccines are fully approved by the FDA,” he wrote. “If FDA has not approved the vaccines by Sept. 10, 2021, I will revise the deadline to allow employees to obtain an FDA fully approved vaccine in a timely manner.”

Following Martinez’s Friday letter, Paxton claimed victory Monday morning, though it was not clear whether his statement was written before or after news of the Pfizer vaccine broke. 

“State law could not be clearer: ‘No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.’ But San Antonio ISD tried to play by its own set of rules. Thankfully, we stopped them,” said Paxton.

It was not immediately clear if Paxton would withdraw his lawsuit against SAISD. A request for comment to the attorney general’s office had not been returned as of Monday afternoon.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District director also urged residents to get vaccinated after the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccine has shown to be 91% effective in people ages 16 and older, Metro Health Director Claude Jacob said.

“COVID vaccines are safe, they are effective against the delta variant, and they offer strong protection from the worst effects of COVID, once an individual is two weeks past their final dose,” he said in a statement Monday. “Metro Health hopes the FDA’s approval will encourage individuals to take the time to get vaccinated today, especially those who have been waiting for the final approval by our federal agencies.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.