Finding My Immunization Records

 

Public Domain Image, no known copyright restrictions.
Collection: Public Health Nursing Files and Photographs Call number: Series 1863 System ID: 73620. Nurse immunizing young girl in dress, 1930’s.

Something happened when I moved from Tennessee to Texas with my parents, my childhood immunization records got lost. It happens, so what’s big deal? That’s what most people likely think, right? Well come to find out these things were more important than I or anyone else thought.

Last year, I applied for a position with a company, and they requested that I submit a copy of these records confirming that I’ve all my childhood immunizations. When I was a kid these were usually Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and a few other things; all good things to keep children healthy and happy (let’s not address the issue of Autism yet, that’s a topic for another time).

With an interview looming and panic setting in as I tried to find these records, I did what most people do when looking for a childhood document; I asked my mom. I asked her if she had any idea of where they were, or who I needed to contact; she suggested the school district I was with when we first moved here. After a few frustrating calls and wondering if I would have to call the state (I didn’t), it soon turned out that Texas school districts don’t keep student records much past ten years. Thinking about this, I knew that my primary care physician wouldn’t have much beyond my annual flu shot and the meningitis vaccination I had needed to have for college; I was now out of luck and potentially defeated.

So I turned to the internet out of frustration, hoping that a little googling on how to retrieve lost immunization records would provide me the answer I needed. Let’s just say right here and now that most of the results were far from helpful, and some were only moderately helpful. The best I had found by far was going by CDC’s own instructions, on who to call and what to ask for.

I started out on the CDC’s site, which I know it can be hard to navigate, but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty handy.

From here I went to “Adult Vaccination Records” since we couldn’t locate mine anywhere.

CDC’s suggestions are:

  • Ask parents or other caregivers if they have records of your childhood immunizations.
    • Nope, no luck here.
  • Try looking through baby books or other saved documents from your childhood.
    • I don’t think I even know where this is.
  • Check with your high school and/or college health services for dates of any immunizations. Keep in mind that generally records are kept only for 1-2 years after students leave the system.
    • It’s been over 15 years since I left the ISD, so no luck here.
  • Check with previous employers (including the military) that may have required immunizations.
    • I’ve never been in the military, or worked for anyone who required these records before now.
  • Check with your doctor or public health clinic. Keep in mind that vaccination records are maintained at doctor’s office for a limited number of years.
    • They had the record of my meningitis, tetanus, and flu vaccines; but nothing else.
  • Contact your state’s health department. Some states have registries (Immunization Information Systems) that include adult vaccines.
    • Here we go! Now wait, which state? Texas, Tennessee, or Alabama?

Now having determined that I needed to contact my state’s health department, I had to figure out which one, as I had received to the best of my knowledge, immunizations in two different states as a kid.

Over the course of the next week, I looked into retrieval from both Texas and Tennessee. Texas would require a form filled out and mailed in, with no real assurance that they would tell me yes or no that they had the records. Tennessee just required a short phone call to Lincoln County Health Department… and I hate phone calls.

Calling the health department I found out that they did indeed have several records and would I like to come pick them up myself or have them mailed? As much as I would love to go visit friends back east, I had them mail them to me. The records came in a very non-descript white envelope the type you get junk credit offers in. Had I not looked at the return address I likely would have lost these again.

In the end I didn’t the job, but I did learn that replacing childhood records isn’t hard. But it sure can be confusing, if not more complicated than you expected; especially if you’ve lived in more than one state.

Published by Elayne Otstot (public health girl)

Graduate of the UT Arlington B.S. in Public Health inaugural cohort and member of Loyola Law School's Coelho Center Fellowship. I address public health and health policy issues in an easy to understand format on my blog Public Health Girl.

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