New rule requires Tennessee students to get flu vaccines

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee students will have to get their flu shot this fall and also be immunized for COVID-19 if a vaccine becomes available under an emergency rule unanimously approved Friday by the university's Board of Trustees.

The university went to online classes because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, which was extended April 1 through the summer. The University of Tennessee system plans to have students on campuses for the fall semester with this new rule - part of the practices designed to keep everyone healthy as possible.

University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd said this is an emergency rule for now. When the state legislature returns, university officials will be asking to make this rule permanent.

Boyd said he expected some pushback.

“But we think this is in the best interest of our students so we’re going to insist on it," Boyd said.

Immunizations will be required for all students, faculty and staff. Boyd said students should get any vaccines available before arriving on campuses. A vaccine for the seasonal flu may not be available until October, and Boyd said students should get them once available.

Students getting immunizations off campus will be asked to provide proof they were vaccinated.

The board also approved a $2.5 billion budget featuring no hike in tuition at any of the Tennessee campuses for the first time in the university's history.

“We think it’s important for our families and the state of Tennessee,” Boyd said. “It’s the right thing.”

Trustees were updated Thursday and Friday on how each campus plans to handle the return of students safely with masks and face coverings mandated. Teachers, who will be outfitted with face shields, will have extra masks for students needing help, and classes will be spread out for social distancing.

Donde Plowman, chancellor at UT-Knoxville, estimated up to 40% of classes will be online this fall. Students won't be allowed to hang out in dorm lobbies and will be asked to self-test and take their own temperature each morning before either going to class or to the health center.


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