How to Find Your Vaccine History—and Store It Safely

If you want to update an incomplete IIS record, you can request vaccination records from prior health care providers, local (city or regional) health departments, or your state health department. The CDC suggests checking with parents or caregivers (including reviewing stored files and baby books), previous schools or employers (including the military), physician’s offices or health clinics, and state health departments for vaccination records. You can find additional tips to locate old immunization records here. Once you locate additional records, you can ask your medical provider to update your records in your state’s IIS system.

Remember, IIS functionality varies by state: The advantage of IIS systems is they house official records that are accessible to users, and vaccination data is automatically updated as long as the user remains in-state and doesn’t opt out. However, systems in some states provide limited access to vaccination records, and most don’t contain vaccinations administered prior to the system’s release. While IIS systems are bound by CDC privacy standards, users should review their state’s system and standards to decide if the advantages of accessing official vaccination data is worth individual privacy concerns.

My home state of Maryland allows users to log in and request access to their data, but my current state of Texas requires users to mail, fax, or email an official data request and then wait for a mailed paper copy of their vaccination record. In my case, that took a month.

While the Texas registry securely consolidates and stores immunization records from multiple sources (health care providers, pharmacies, public health clinics, Medicaid claims administrators, state health services, and so on) in one centralized system, it was designed so only doctors, schools, child-care centers, public health care providers, and other authorized health care organizations can directly access them, and even then only for patients who have opted in. Texas immunization records are not available to view online by the general public, including parents or legal guardians. However, many state IIS systems and pharmacies offer both online and mobile app access to your personal vaccination history.

Start from scratch: What should you do if, like me, you can’t locate your childhood vaccination records? According to the CDC, repeating vaccines isn’t ideal, but in some cases it may be appropriate. In some cases, blood tests can be performed to determine your immunity to specific illnesses and which vaccines you should get as an adult, so discuss your options with your doctor.

How to Store Your Records Going Forward

If you want your official vaccination record stored and updated, the most logical option is to utilize your state’s IIS system. If that system doesn’t meet your needs, there are other options as well. Salley says, “It really comes down to who is responsible for maintaining medical records, the individual or the government? It is simple for the individual to keep track of vaccines and beneficial for them to do so.”

There are a number of mobile apps (SMART Health Card, Express Scripts, and Docket Immunization Records, for example) that store official vaccination data. Plus, you can always maintain your own list of vaccination dates and locations in your phone’s notes section or in your contacts. Keep in mind however, that while user-stored records of vaccine dates and providers are helpful for reference, they are not official records. In addition to being verifiable, official vaccine documentation includes the date of administration, manufacturer, vaccine lot number, name and title of administrator, and facility address.

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