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Keeping track of immunization records for your kids

13 Feb 2014 – 06:30 AM EST

If there is one document that you’ll need to have again and again for your child, it is his immunization record. This document may be more important at times than his birth certificate and social security card!

When our kids were given their first immunizations, they were issued yellow cards that listed all the immunizations they would need with a stamp from the pediatrician for the ones they had. We survived the milestone with tears, but those immunization cards were like little passports, gaining us entrance into daycares and schools.

When will I need immunization records?

You might think the immunization record is important only during your child’s infancy and toddler years — to keep track of his vaccinations, essentially — but in truth, you will need your child’s immunization record well into his adulthood. Each new school will require a copy of his vaccination records, as will each doctor. Most hospitals (unless you’re there for an emergency) will ask for a copy prior to providing surgical treatments. The requests won’t stop there, however.

When our son went into the military, we had to find all of his shot records; the military wanted the originals, not just the transferred record. Luckily, we’d always kept each original. When our daughter started attending a local community college, the school required a copy of her immunizations; when she transferred to the university, we had to provide them all over again. Last year, she started work on her master’s degree, meaning her grad school required a copy, too.

What if I don’t have my records?

If, as an adult, you return to school or if you work in an environment where immunizations are required, you may also have to provide your immunization record, even if you live off campus and attend school online (as I did). Tracking down records can be difficult. Since I didn’t have access to my childhood immunization records, I had to have blood work done where they test for titers in my blood to prove that I’d been immunized.

How should I store immunization records?

The little yellow cards issued to us in Idaho worked to get our kids enrolled in daycare when we moved in New York, but the pediatrician in New York had his own recording system, so future immunizations were recorded differently. When we moved to Nevada, there was yet another system for immunizations.

As we move to a digital age, maintaining those records in a digital format that you can access securely from anywhere may be an option. But if you’re still carrying a paper record, keep it safe, never throw it away, and never think you or your kids have outgrown the need for it! We put the immunization cards in a locking file box where we keep all of our important papers, and even when the immunizations were transferred to a new record, we still kept the old ones just in case (and still have them, 20 years later — just in case!).