Illustration of a vaccination record in purple-blue hue.
Illustration: PGN

What you need to know

  • Your parents, guardians, previous health care providers, schools, and employers are all possible sources for your vaccination records.
  • Your state or city may have your immunization records in its electronic vaccine registry.
  • If you can’t locate your immunization records, you may need to repeat some vaccines, which is safe.

The reemergence of polio in New York City has many people wondering: What diseases have I been immunized for and where can I find a history of all the vaccines I’ve ever received?

The answer may not be as straightforward as one might expect. There is no federal database of everyone’s vaccination records. Even though the CDC recommends more than a dozen routine immunizations, the agency does not actually store people’s vaccination data, nor does any other national organization.

The records that do exist are the ones you or your parents or guardians received when the vaccines were administered, or the ones kept by the doctor or clinic where the vaccines were given. 

How to find your vaccination records

Most routine immunizations would have been administered when you were a kid, so a good place to start is to ask your parents if they still have your childhood immunization records or to look through baby books and other childhood documents. 

If you can’t locate the physical records, you can check your state’s or city’s immunization information system (IIS), a centralized registry of vaccines given by local providers. If you grew up in a different state than the one you live in now, look into the IIS there as well. These records may not include all ages and vaccinations, but they are still worth checking.

You may also be able to obtain digital vaccination records through previous health care providers, schools, or employers, though these institutions typically only keep vaccination records for a limited number of years, likely no more than a decade. Contact the doctors or clinics where you may have received vaccines. Check with the schools and colleges you attended, as they most likely would have required proof of routine immunizations for attendance. Previous employers, including the military, may have also required certain immunizations and might still have your information on file. 

If you moved to the U.S. from another country, you may have had to gather vaccination information for your visa. Look back at those documents and see if you can find any immunization records.

What to do if you can’t find your records

If you can’t find your records but need proof of immunization to meet school, employment, or travel requirements, you may need to repeat certain vaccines. You may also consider repeating a vaccine if there is a current outbreak and you are at high risk. Although it can be inconvenient, it is safe to repeat vaccines. Talk to your health care provider to learn more and discuss the best path forward.

Sometimes you can deduce whether or not you’ve been immunized without official records. For some diseases, you can use blood tests to detect whether you are immune—from either previous infection or vaccination. This is an option for diseases including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and rabies.

You can also make deductions based on where you were born, where you’ve lived, where you attended school, and where you’ve traveled. In some countries, childhood vaccinations are mandatory. In others, like the U.S., routine vaccinations are required for school entry, unless you have a medical or religious exemption. If you’ve traveled to countries with high risk of yellow fever, you likely had to get vaccinated for the disease before your trip. In addition to routine U.S. immunizations, the typhoid and rabies vaccines are also commonly recommended for international travel.

How to keep your vaccination records safe going forward

Physical documents can be easily damaged, misplaced, or lost. Going forward, keep your and your child’s vaccination records safe and up to date.

Print out this form to keep track of your immunization history. Bring it with you to health visits and ask vaccine administrators to update and sign the chart each time you receive a shot. Store it in a plastic or vinyl sleeve so it doesn’t get damaged and keep it in a safe place with other important documents.

Besides keeping a physical record, you should also ask your health care provider to store your immunization history in their electronic database and your state’s or city’s IIS. Make sure that each time you receive a new vaccine, your record is updated. These electronic records make it easier for health care providers to determine which shots you still need to receive and when you should receive them.

Your IIS records are confidential and are only accessible to you, your doctor, and other health care workers, but if you do not want your or your child’s information in the registry, you can contact your local IIS and request to opt out.