If you’ve recently texted your mom to ask her about which vaccines you got as a kid, well, you’re definitely not the only one. We’ve all heard our share of vaccine news lately, the most recent being tied to a case of polio in an unvaccinated person in Rockland County, New York. Coupled with the fact that we’re still living through a pandemic and now in the midst of a monkeypox outbreak—you may, reasonably, feel like you need to make sure you got all your necessary vaccinations, just in case.
“Having an up-to-date vaccine record is very important,” Cory Fisher, DO, a family medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. “It should be a standard part of the discussion with any [primary care physician] that you’re seeing for the first time… Not having this information can cause delayed protection from infections that circulate in our communities.” A murky knowledge of your vaccine history also makes it difficult for your doctor to recommend routine shots for conditions like tetanus, pneumonia, and shingles, Dr. Fisher adds.
Unfortunately, tracking down your immunization record may be easier said than done, especially if you were adopted, don’t have a good relationship with your parents, or moved to the US as an adult, among many other circumstances. Not sure where to start? The CDC has put together a list of tips to help you find out which shots you got and when, since the US doesn’t have a national vaccination registry.
How to locate your vaccination record
Before you jump in, it may be helpful to check out the CDC’s list of recommended vaccines by age; that way, you’ll have an idea of what your immunization record should look like. Then, you can start your search:
Get in touch with your family if you can.
If it is an option for you, check with your parents or other caregivers you had when you were young to see if they’ve held onto your records, the CDC recommends. If they’re not sure where your documents are, make an afternoon of sorting through old boxes or storage closets that may keep related memorabilia safe, such as baby books or other documents saved from your childhood.
Contact your former schools, employers, or doctors.
If speaking with your parents or poking around your childhood home isn’t an option, your next best bet is to contact the schools you’ve attended, including your college if you went to one, to ask if they have any health records you submitted to them. Nearly all schools require attendees to receive certain vaccinations and you may have submitted proof of those immunizations when you enrolled.
The same goes for former employers, the CDC says: It’s worth reaching out to companies you worked for in the past, as they may also have your immunization record on file. If you’re still having trouble, you can also try to reach out to the hospital or clinic your parents took you to when you were a child or teen. All of that said, there’s a chance any of these places may have disposed of your record after a certain number of years.
Loop in your state’s health department.
Still hitting a dead end? Ask your health care provider whether your state keeps track of vaccine records, Dr. Fisher recommends. “Most states have a central repository for vaccine information, and your doctor’s office should have access to this portal,” he says.