Recommendations and Guidelines
Vaccination Records: Finding, Interpreting, and Recording
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Where are my (or my child's) immunization records?
There is no central repository of vaccination records. The only records that exist are the ones you or your parents were given when the vaccines were administered, and the ones in the medical record of the doctor or clinic where the vaccines were given. Sometimes schools hold the vaccination records of children who attended, but these records are usually not kept for more than a year or two.
If you cannot locate your personal record or the record from your doctor, it may be necessary to repeat some of the vaccines or arrange blood tests to determine your immunity.
Where can I look for existing immunization records?
- Try calling your local or state health department's immunization program.
- Sometimes schools hold the vaccination records of children who attended, but these records are generally not kept for more than a year or two or, at the longest, until graduation. After a student graduates, records are sent to storage and may not be accessible.
- Look for family records such as a baby book.
- Check for records with your doctor or public health clinic. Please keep in mind, however, that immunization records are maintained for a limited number of years, and then usually only by the medical provider who actually administered the vaccines.
College student's records
- Many colleges provide vaccinations (often, certain vaccinations are required for enrollment). Contact your college's medical services department (student health) for further information.
- Check your military records.
Consult the Immunization Action Coalition's site for more tips on locating immunization records.
Who is responsible for keeping immunization records?
In most states, it is the responsibility of the parents of school-aged children, not family doctors, to provide vaccination records to the health department and to schools.
Today we move, travel, and change health providers more than we did in previous generations. Also, doctor's offices and clinics store records of children's vaccinations and the dates they were received only for a few years. If you keep an accurate record, you will be more likely to remember when to bring your children in for the next visit. These records also can prove that your children are up to date with their immunizations. In most states, children are not allowed to enter school or childcare unless they can prove that they meet all school immunization requirements.
Your doctor or clinic will be happy to give you an immunization record form for your use. Bring this record with you whenever you take your child to the doctor or clinic, and ask the doctor to sign and date the form each time a vaccination is given. That way, you can be sure that the immunization information is current and correct.
Finally, make sure you know if your doctor participates in an immunization registry. However, keep in mind that very few registries existed prior to the mid-1990's.
The printable (.pdf) documents listed here include instructions and sample records for documenting the administration of vaccines, including combination vaccines.
- Sample vaccine record form for CHILDREN and TEENS [4 pages]
Sample records include all recently licensed vaccines: MCV, HPV, Rota, Tdap, zoster
NOTE: You may also visit Immunization Action Coalition's site to purchase child & teen record forms in mass (250 per box).
- Sample vaccine record form for ADULTS [2 pages]
NOTE: You may also visit Immunization Action Coalition's site to purchase adult forms in mass (250 per box).
- Sample vaccine record form for LIFETIME
The lifetime record forms are only available for purchase at Immunization Action Coalition's website.
- Sample letter for individuals/clinics to use to inform providers of vaccinations [1 page] received outside the doctor's office for CHILDREN and ADULTS
Consult the Vaccine and Acronyms and Abbreviations list to interpret the commonly used acronyms and abbreviations used by healthcare providers to record vaccinations on health-records. It also contains manufacturers' trade names for vaccines and some common abbreviations/acronyms for vaccine-preventable disease organisms. For other acronyms and abbreviations used on this site, see Acronyms page.
For records recorded in foreign languages, consult the table of "Aids to Translating Foreign Immunization Records." [6.56 MB - 18 pages]
What are Immunization Information Systems and who benefits from them?
Immunization Information Systems are computerized information systems that collect vaccination histories and help ensure correct and timely immunizations, especially for children.
Healthcare Providers use registries to:
- obtain a complete, accurate immunization history for a new or continuing patient
- produce official immunization records
- reduce paperwork
- manage vaccine inventories
- introduce new vaccines or changes in the vaccination schedule
- help interpret the complex immunization schedule
- provide coverage data for health insurance plans and other national organizations
Communities use registries to:
- identify populations at high risk for vaccine-preventable diseases
- target immunization interventions and resources efficiently
Parents working with their healthcare provider(s), can use registries systems to:
- be notified when immunizations are due or late
- obtain an accurate, official immunization history for personal use and for daycare, school, or camp entry requirements
- consolidate records for all immunizations a child has received
- help ensure that a child's immunizations are up to date
- help ensure timely immunization for children if families move or switch healthcare providers
- prevent unnecessary (duplicative) immunization
Note: No universal registry system now exists. Registries in one state or area may not be compatible with other registries, and information may have to be manually transferred from registry to registry. Also, to protect personal information in registries, this information cannot be directly retrieved by individuals.
To learn more about Immunization Registries and ensuring the confidentiality of registry information, consult the Immunization Registries area of CDC's Vaccines & Immunizations web site at:
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Content last reviewed on August 10, 2009
Content Source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases