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TDOE: Vaccinations required for both in-person and virtual learning

In its reopening plan, the Tennessee Department of Education said school entry immunizations have not changed.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — From April 2019 to April 2020, the Tennessee Dept. of Education reported a 43 percent drop in immunizations because of COVID-19.

While the number of people 0 to 19 getting vaccinations made some progress in May, TDOE said the impact from COVID-19 has been "significant."

Public health leaders said vaccinations are a key part of keeping kids safe this fall.

RELATED: Getting you back to school: What vaccines does your child need?

"We don't want to add other disease outbreaks to the fall when we're going to have COVID-19 cases as well," said Charity Menefee, director of environmental and communicable disease for the Knox County Health Department. "It's going to be tremendously important — always is — from a public health perspective."

Knoxville area pediatricians agree.

"The vaccines work very, very well as long as everybody gets them," Dr. Kurt Brandt said. "It protects children, but it also protects the people around you."

The required immunizations vary by grade level, but they all have the same goal.

"These diseases have significant consequences for some people, so it's always good to prevent something that could harm you," Dr. R. Michael Green said. "Some of the diseases that we're trying to prevent, can have symptoms that are similar to COVID."

That's why vaccines are more important than ever this year. That includes optional ones like the flu shot.

"If we can have less flu available to us as a community, then that's one less thing we have to worry about," Dr. Green said.

Plus, most physicians are taking extra steps to make sure parents and children are safe.

"We check a temperature before you come in," Dr. Brandt said. "We no longer have a waiting room." 

Instead, children wait with their parents in their car until it is their turn for an appointment. There are separate hours and offices for sick patients than for well patients.

"There's so many other viruses that are going around," Dr. Brandt said. "If you can protect yourself from as many of them as you possibly can, I think that's great."