Keeping Track of Your Child’s Immunizations
Jul 05, 2013
Today Dr. Lara Zibners addresses an inquiry from our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page (now renamed the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page) that pertains to immunization records. If you have a vaccine related question that you would like us to address, please email email@example.com or send us a message on our Facebook page.
I have a question…I thought my daughter (5) was all caught up on her shots last year when she went to preschool. Now at her physical they say she is behind on four vaccines!!! I KNOW we got them updated last year, and the doctor’s office dropped the ball and failed to chart it…so now, if she has to have those 4 repeated, will it hurt her in any way?
Oh that’s a bummer! I can imagine how frustrating this for you—not to mention your daughter! As parents, we trust our children’s doctors to keep accurate records of both healthy and sick visits. Unfortunately, sometimes a parent’s recollection of events doesn’t match up to what’s written in the chart. Sometimes the misstep is on the part of the doctor or office staff, and sometimes on the part of the parent. This time it sounds like you very well may be right. And it reminds me of when I took my daughters to the pediatrician for their immunizations.
My kids are 3 months apart in age. (I know, I know, the math doesn’t add up. We can get into it later but trust me here.) This meant we were always one set of shots apart for the first year and a half. Like a brave Mommy, I held one of the girls in my lap while our pediatrician delivered the goods. After I was done consoling her, I set her down and picked up the other one. The doctor looked at me in surprise and said, “What are you doing? She doesn’t get shots this visit.” I just stared at him and said, “Um, yes, yes, she does. This one is Zoe.”
In this instance, it was half my fault, half his. The immunization schedule in the UK (where we live) is different than the one I delivered while training as a pediatrician in the United States. The girls had both started their vaccine schedules in the U.S. (where they were born) and then continued them on the other side of the pond. Which pretty much completely confused their English pediatrician doctor and their American pediatrician mother. Some of the shots we had to repeat because of the differing intervals, while some were present on the UK schedule and not the US one and vice versa. And then, in poor Eva’s case, one of my kids got an entire set of shots three months after she’s already had them. Poor bunny. She wasn’t remotely amused. Not even when I gave her chocolate as a peace offering.
But that is the end of the bad part of my story (and yours). The good news is that repeated immunizations are not dangerous. In fact, in some instances, we actually recommend them. For example, a child who is adopted from another country with uncertain medical resources, or whose early medical care was haphazard, should get all their shots repeated on an accelerated schedule. The same is true if the interval between doses is shorter than recommended or the child is younger than the advised age. This is simply to ensure that each child is adequately immunized. As for negative consequences, there isn’t any evidence that they exist.
In your daughter’s case, the shots she needs to repeat are the IPV (polio), MMR, Varicella, and DTaP vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics firmly states that there is no evidence that giving any of the first three to a person who is already immune to these illnesses causes any harm. As for the DTaP shot, that’s one that she’ll be repeating at regular intervals throughout her lifetime because the immunity wears off. Another dose before the next is due isn’t a problem.
I sincerely hope that this has alleviated some of your concerns and helped to reassure you that even the most conscientious doctors can sometimes get confused. By all means, though, this time, ask for a copy of her immunization records to keep at home. It’s a good idea for all of us, actually. Most definitely for me. Can you imagine what will happen when we move back to the States?!
For a complete overview of the general immunization recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), refer to the following document: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr6002.pdf
For more information on vaccine schedules, check the references below:
Easy to read vaccination schedules for infants through adults, are available on the CDC website.
Parents and caregivers can keep track of immunizations by using the following CDC form: Immunizations and Developmental Milestones For Your Child from Birth through 6 Years Old.
For children 7 through 18 years of age, parents can download the Adolescent Immunization Scheduler directly from the CDC.
Parents may also want to consider Vaxtext , a mobile text program that helps keep kids 0-24 months of age on track with the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule. (Note from Vaccinate Your Family: Vaxtext and the Adolescent Immunization Scheduler no longer exist. You can sign up for the Text4Baby app to receive texts on health and safety.)
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