How To Check If You Were Vaccinated For Certain Illnesses As A Child

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Today, most medical records are stored conveniently online, making them impossible to misplace and easy to track down when you need them. Even if your records aren’t online, you can snap a photo of whatever paperwork you need (like your COVID vaccine card, for example) and have easy access to it via your phone.

This wasn’t the case just a few decades ago (or even a few years ago), when medical history was largely stored on paper. Now it may be hard to track down specific health information you need, like your childhood vaccination records. Certain jobs require proof of vaccination, as do certain schools — plus it’s just helpful to know your immunization history for your own safety, too.

According to Dr. Emily Wolfe, a pediatrician with Orlando Health Physician Associates in Florida, “being aware of vaccine [and] immunity status is important for both the health of the individual as well as any family members [or] friends that they come in contact with who may be at risk for certain illnesses.”

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If you’re around a newborn, you’ll want to be sure you’re up to date with your vaccinations. Additionally, if there is an outbreak of a certain virus, you’ll want to know that you’re protected or get vaccinated if you’re not.

All hope is not lost if your vaccination records are nowhere to be found. There are ways to track down what you’re protected against.

Why knowing your vaccination history is important

According to Wolfe, because of the anti-vaccine movement, there have been recent outbreaks of illnesses that used to be uncommon in the United States. So it’s now almost normal to hear about outbreaks of viruses like measles and polio.

Additionally, she noted that certain vaccines are relatively new and may not have been administered to parents or grandparents (such as the chicken pox vaccine), putting them at heightened risk.

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Because of all of this, “it’s important to know if you are more at risk for contracting these illnesses because of a missing vaccine from childhood,” she said.

Dr. Bert E. Johansson, a vaccine expert with the National Hispanic Medical Association, added that it’s helpful to be able to share your vaccine history with a doctor in certain situations, too. If you go to the ER with a wound and need a tetanus shot, your treatment could be dictated by your tetanus vaccination history, he said.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated or [have been] vaccinated less than three times and it’s a dirty wound, you’re going to get the vaccine and the tetanus immune globulin,” he noted.

So you’ll want to be able to know your vaccine history for your own protection.

If you can't find your childhood vaccination records, you can schedule a blood test to determine what vaccines you have.
If you can’t find your childhood vaccination records, you can schedule a blood test to determine what vaccines you have.

To find your immunization records, try your primary care doctor.

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Your primary care provider may have access to your vaccine records. In fact, certain states have immunization record databases that doctors or pharmacists can consult.

Unfortunately, Johansson added, this is not an answer for everyone. These records often don’t go much beyond 20 years, and the databases are not operational in every area.

But it’s worth a try if you’re trying to track down childhood vaccinations.

Next, reach out to family members, your pediatrician and past employers.

When you were a baby, your parent or guardian was likely given a small card by your doctor with your vaccination records.

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It may sound like a far-fetched thing to find all these years later, but Johansson recommended that you reach out to your parents, grandparents or past guardians to see if they still have your original cards.

If it’s not in a stack of family records, call your pediatrician (if they are still in practice) to see if they still have your records. If your pediatrician’s office was taken over by a larger health system, there’s a chance they may have your information on file, he said, so reach out to that health system, too.

Additionally, your past employers or schools may have requested your vaccine records, and they may still have them. Or, if you’re a veteran, the military may have your records on file.

But, if you call around and still can’t find your vaccine history, don’t fret. It’s kind of expected. “The trouble is, many of those places don’t keep those records for more than four to five years,” Johansson said.

If your vaccine records are nowhere to be found, you have options.

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Both Wolfe and Johansson noted that blood tests are available to determine if you have had certain childhood vaccines or are protected through a previous infection.

“There are antibody tests that can determine if you have the vaccine for a number of illnesses,” Johansson said. You can be tested to see if you are vaccinated against illnesses like tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, measles and more, he said.

This test is called the titer test, and you should be able to set it up through your primary care doctor. If you go to a small practice that doesn’t offer this kind of testing, try speaking with doctors at larger health systems in your area — you can even try a local CVS, which offers the titer test at certain locations throughout the country.

This is a great option for those who can’t find their records and need proof of vaccination for employment, school or just for their own public health safety.

And if all else fails, you can get revaccinated.

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If you’re in a high-risk situation — like if you’re in an area with a virus outbreak and you are not sure if you are vaccinated — you can get revaccinated, Johansson said.

Additionally, revaccination may be necessary for certain at-risk groups, Dr. Scott Roberts, the associate medical director of Infection Prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital, previously told HuffPost. People undergoing certain medical treatments require revaccination after treatment, he noted, to ensure they’re fully protected.

Wolfe stressed that you should talk to your primary care physician “about your risk for contracting illnesses based on what is known about your vaccine record.” From there, you’ll be able to come up with a proper plan together.

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