Are your vaccinations up to date?
Once you reach adulthood, you may believe you’re up to date on your vaccinations. After all, your parents likely took care of maintaining your vaccination records growing up, and it’s probably not something you consider that often.
However, an estimated 37 million children and adults missed some or all of their routine vaccinations during the pandemic.
Vaccinations are an important part of preventive health care, but keeping track of your immunization schedule might be a daunting task. Unfortunately, there isn’t a national agency that maintains vaccination records.
Dr. Cherie Bessie Hawkins, a family medicine physician at Advocate Health Care in Chicago, offers the following tips to determine if you are up to date on all your vaccinations.
1. Consult your personal records
“Your personal records are a great place to start,” Dr. Hawkins says. “If you or your parents kept a diligent record of your care, you should be able to find out what vaccinations you received.”
Check your records against the recommended vaccine schedules for your age, demographic and location provided by authoritative health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States.
2. Check with previous doctors
“If your personal records are incomplete or missing, the next step is to get in touch with all of your previous doctors, including any visits you made to local public health departments or clinics,” Dr. Hawkins says.
Your previous doctors should maintain comprehensive medical records, including details of all vaccinations you may have received. If you’ve switched providers or have received vaccinations from various sources such as a travel clinic or a school health service, you’ll want to reach out to all of them for complete data.
In the event your previous doctor has retired, old patient records may have been sent to a medical record storage company. You may be able to access your records from the company for a fee.
3. Check with your school or workplace
Schools, and some employers, require you to maintain updated vaccinations and provide proof of vaccination. They may also keep a record of your vaccinations, so you may be able to get records through your school administration or human resources department.
4. Access state Immunization Information Systems
In some states, your immunization data might be stored in a state or local Immunization Information System (IIS). These confidential systems collect and consolidate vaccination data from health care providers. Accessing these systems might provide a more comprehensive view of your vaccination status.
5. Get a blood test
Finally, if all else fails, you can request serologic testing, where a blood test is used to determine your immunity to certain diseases. This can help identify if you have received certain vaccines or have had the actual disease. However, this option should be a last resort as it might be expensive, not fully reliable and is not available for all diseases.
“Once you have established your vaccination status, it is important to stay up to date with future vaccines,” Dr. Hawkins adds. “Regularly consult with your doctor and follow the vaccination schedules recommended for you.”
Maintaining your vaccination records is not just crucial for your health, but it also significantly contributes to public health by reducing the spread of preventable diseases.