Finding Your Adult Vaccination Record
A vaccination record (also called an immunization record) helps you and your health care provider ensure you are protected against diseases that have vaccines to prevent them. An up-to-date record also can prevent needless revaccination during a health emergency or when you change doctors. When immunization records are misplaced, it can be very hard to track down this information. But by doing a bit of research, you can either find or construct your personal vaccination record.
Why Keep A Vaccination Record?
You never outgrow your need for vaccines. Over the years, the recommended number of childhood and adult vaccinations has increased. You may be aware of some of these additional vaccines but not know about others.
Vaccines not only protect you, but prevent the spread of illness to other people, such as children who are too young to get vaccinated or adults who have weakened immune systems. Keeping track of your immunizations with a vaccination record keeps you up to date on your vaccines and saves time and money by ensuring you don’t get unneeded extra doses of vaccine.
Need More Reasons?
The immunizations you need as an adult are determined by factors such as your age, lifestyle, high-risk conditions, type and locations of travel, and previous immunizations. Throughout your adult life, you need immunizations to get and maintain protection against these diseases:
- Seasonal influenza (flu)
- Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough)
- Pneumococcal disease
- Hepatitis B infection
Other vaccinations you may need include those that protect against human papillomavirus (HPV, which can cause certain cancers); Hepatitis A; chickenpox (varicella); and measles, mumps, and rubella. Check with your doctor to make sure you have the vaccine protection you need.
- You’re traveling abroad. If you’re planning to travel to other countries, it’s important to check which vaccines you’ve received and which are recommended or required for travel. Some vaccine-preventable diseases not common in the United States still exist in other parts of the world. In addition, in an airport or on an airplane, other travelers can expose you to disease. Get the recommended vaccines before you travel; you may need to see a travel medicine specialist. Ideally, visit a doctor or clinic at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip.
- You’re planning additional education and training. The economic downturn has caused many adults to get more education and training. Many colleges and vocational schools require proof of routine vaccinations. You save time, money, and valuable vaccine by having your records on hand.
- You want to work in the health care profession. Health care workers are sometimes exposed to people who are ill with a vaccine-preventable disease or to contaminated blood and bodily fluids that could result in illnesses. Most health care workers are required to have proof of vaccination or evidence of immunity against several vaccine-preventable diseases to make sure they are protected and to prevent passing these infections to their patients.
- You have asthma, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or a weak immune system. Certain adult vaccinations—some recently developed—are recommended if you have special health conditions that put you at risk for severe illness that may be prevented through vaccination.
Where to Begin Looking for Vaccination Records?
If you don’t have your complete vaccination record, you may find some pieces of your vaccination history in places where other important documents are stored.
- Check with your current and previous health care providers, including urgent care and public health clinics, or pharmacies where you may have received vaccinations.
- Investigate old family albums, baby book or family Bibles.
- Contact your college’s medical services department (student health).
- Review your military records.
- See if your state has an immunization registry.
- Check with your health insurance company to see if it has a record of your vaccinations. Often, medical records are passed from health care provider to insurer and then between insurers if you change medical plans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have vaccination records.
Immunization information systems or immunization registries are confidential, computerized databases that record vaccination doses administered by health care professionals. Immunization registries consolidate vaccination information received from various health care professionals to provide a more complete immunization record.
At this time, 49 states have an immunization registry, but not all vaccine providers enter vaccination information into registries. Many U.S. health care professionals have adopted an electronic health record system (EHRs) as part of their routine practice. With proper authorization, some EHRs are able to securely and confidentially exchange vaccination information with immunization registries. Exchanging vaccination information provides you and your health care professional with more complete information that can be used to determine whether an immunization is needed during your health care visit.
Find out if your state has an immunization information system or registry.