In the past, immunization records were written by the nurse on a piece of card that the parents keep at home. During each doctor's appointment, the parents were instructed to bring the immunization card so that the doctor could review the record and advise which vaccinations were necessary. While this system worked well most of the time, it was an inefficient system. Occasionally some parents were unable to find the immunization record at home, and sometimes it was difficult to figure out which shots the child had received in the past.
With this system, there was usually a backup record that was also kept at the doctor's office in case the immunization record was misplaced. Having a backup at a doctor's office didn't work all the time because some children changed doctors or relocated to a different area, and it was not always possible to get the information from the previous doctor's office. Every now and then, a doctor retires, and it may be nearly impossible to find the record from the office, even though the government requires that all medical practices keep old medical records for many years without destroying them.
If you cannot find your child's previous immunization record, there is one last place you can look for a copy of the record. Since childhood immunization is recommended by most public schools before attendance, your child's current or previous school may have a copy of the immunization record. While it may not be the most up-to-date record, it may have most of the vaccines your child received prior to age six.
Even if you are unable to locate your child's immunization record, it is safe to get the vaccines again. Many jobs require an updated copy of your immunization record, especially for health-care workers. No harm has ever been reported for receiving more than the recommended doses of vaccines.
While it is harmless to get all the shots all over again if you have misplaced your child's immunization record, it is nevertheless painful. To avoid putting your child through the discomfort of getting a bunch of additional injections, keep the immunization record in a safe place. To avoid misplacing the record, always keep the card in the same place, preferably with other important documents, such as the birth certificate, the social security card, and passports.
Keep in mind that many childhood vaccines are not necessary anymore for older children, and your child may not need to get all of the vaccines again. Talk to your doctor to find out which vaccines are still necessary for older children.
Electronic Vaccine Record
To circumvent the problem of a misplaced immunization record, most health-care providers are investing in an electronic vaccine tracking system to improve the accuracy of the immunization record and reduce the chance of misplaced records.
Most of these newer systems can still print out a paper copy of the immunization record, and you should keep the paper record in a safe place. While electronic record keeping is more accurate, there is no current accepted national database that contains the vaccine record of all children. If you switch doctors or move away from your current residence, the electronic record at your previous doctor is usually not transferable to the new doctor's office. Unless you have a paper copy of the record to bridge the gap in different systems, missing or duplicate records can become a problem.
Since medical record keeping in general is such an important task, there have been many attempts at creating a national database for individuals to keep their medical records online. Google and Microsoft have independently ventured into this effort, but so far there have been few volunteers who signed on to have their personal information kept online. Obviously, privacy is a major concern and the biggest obstacle to a standardized information system. Until the security details have been worked out and people are convinced that confidentiality will not be breached, such nationwide systems will remain largely underutilized.