What to Do If You Lose Your Vaccine Shot Records

Nurse in scrubs holding medical chart in clinic
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Your child has had all or most of their vaccines, but you can't find their vaccine records. Your doctor can't find them either. What do you do? Does he need to start getting shots all over again? Unfortunately, this happens much more often than you would think.

Finding Lost Shot Records

Families move, doctors retire, and records get lost. If this happens to you before you go any further, there are a few things you can do to locate your child's shot records:

  • Schools or childcare providers. Contact previous daycare centers, schools, camps, or anywhere else your child previously attended. that else you may have given a copy of their shot record to, and see if they still have a copy.
  • All previous healthcare providers. If your pediatrician is still in practice, try their office again to see if they can find them. If your previous doctor moved or retired, contact your local medical society or state medical board to see where old records may be stored. Doctors are supposed to keep old records for a certain amount of time, but just how long varies by state.
  • Local immunization registry. Find out if your state has an immunization registry and, if so if your child has any vaccine records in it. all of a child's vaccines with a computerized statewide immunization registry.

You might also review your child's full medical records if that is available. It may be that even if you don't have your child's vaccine schedule, you may be able to recreate it using your doctor's or nurse's notes.

Repeating Vaccines

If a child's shot record is truly lost, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that the child "should be considered susceptible and should be started on the age-appropriate vaccination schedule."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "no evidence indicates that administration of MMR, varicella, Hib, hepatitis B or poliovirus vaccine to already immune recipients is harmful."

In most cases, if you are unsure if your child received a vaccine, then it can be simply repeated.

Checking Titers

Since most kids (and parents) don't look forward to extra shots, the ACIP does offer one other option: "Serologic testing for immunity is an alternative to vaccination for certain antigens." That means that blood tests can be done to try and prove that your child did already get all of their shots.

These blood tests, called titer tests, check for the presence of certain antibodies (immunity) in the bloodstream. If the test is positive for a specific disease, it means your child is immune, has likely had a vaccination for that disease, and therefore does not need to repeat the vaccine.

Going this route, a child could be tested for:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Measles, Mumps, or Rubella
  • Tetanus

There aren't any tests to exclude revaccination for varicella, polio, pertussis, or Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccines. (Fortunately, you only need one dose of Hib after age 15 months, and you don't get it at all once you are five years old.) Because of this, your child may still need polio, varicella, and pertussis vaccines along with vaccines for any diseases that your child is not immune to.

As for Prevnar, there is a Streptococcus pneumoniae IgG antibody 7 serotypes test that could help to verify that your child was immunized, although this test may not be widely available.

The Cons of Using Titer Tests

Keep in mind that there are a few downsides do doing these tests instead of simply repeating the vaccines. For one, there is the cost of the tests, which may not be covered by insurance. Also, you may need a new letter each time your child changes schools, goes to a new camp, goes off to college, etc.

And while your child may not need another shot, the problem with this strategy is that if they have low levels of antibodies, in addition to the stick for the blood test, they will still need the shots.

How to Avoid Losing Vaccine Records

To avoid being in a situation where your child's vaccine record is lost, it can be helpful to:

  1. Print out an immunization milestone tracker.
  2. Bring your child's immunization tracking document to each of their doctor visits.
  3. Ask the doctor or nurse to write down the vaccine given, date, and dosage on your personal copy of your child's immunization record.
  4. Keep this updated record in a secure place where you can easily locate it, such as a safe deposit box or a fire-resistant, waterproof safe.

It can be helpful to encourage your doctor to participate in your state or local immunization registry. This way, even in the event of a wide-scale disaster, your child's immunization records will remain intact.

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Article Sources
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  1. Unknown or Uncertain Vaccination Status. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  2. Find Your Child’s Immunization Record Through Your State’s IIS. Immunization Information Systems (IIS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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