The Perspective

Managing Shot Records: Then and Now

Record keeping for immunizations has, like everything else in the past 50 years, changed . . . a lot. But some things never change.

When your mother brought you to a new pediatrician, she first had to search through papers to find that little card with your shot record. When you went to school, you had to bring it with you when the school nurse gave you a booster shot for polio or diphtheria. Even today, if you are of a certain age and are re-enrolling in a college or university, you have to provide proof that you received an MMR vaccine. Having the registrar call your mom to confirm that you actually had the mumps or the measles and therefore don’t need the shot is not an option – it’s been tried.

The Importance of Records

The immunization record is an important piece of your health information and it’s as important when you’re an adult as when you were a child. In the days before computers, public health nurses and parents relied on their memory, handwritten notes, cards or records from previous physicians to provide an accurate medical history. Did your child receive all of the appropriate doses of the polio vaccine at the correct intervals? Is she up to date with her pertussis shots? Has he gotton his MMR immunization? Are you protected against flu, shingles, pneumonia, pertussis? When was your last tetanus shot?

“We had a pen and a piece of paper. Everything was recorded on cards,” said Jane Shunney, who began her health district career in 1976 at ‘swine’ flu shot clinics and later as a full-time staff member in the mid-1980s. The trip to the immunization clinic also included a brief interview with the parents regarding shot records. “We also had Leonard,” she said. Leonard Short, who incidentally was at least 6 feet tall, was a long time administrative staff member in the immunization clinic and retired in the 1990s. “He could find anything,” Jane said. Records were filed in rows of cabinets. The client records included the patient’s name, age, birthdate, vial number, which arm or leg received the shot, dates, etc.

The Benefit of Electronic Recordkeeping

In Nevada, our immunization rates for toddlers ranks near the bottom of the 50 states. In the 2011 National Immunization Survey of kids born from Jan. 2008 through May 2010 the state’s ranking improved to 40th for vaccine coverage of kids between 19 and 35 months old. Some of the credit goes to the statewide immunization registry called WebIZ, which has its roots in a 1997 Robert Wood Johnson grant that helped the formation of the Southern Nevada Immunization Coalition (SNIC). The health district has been using the registry since 2003 and the 2009 legislative session cemented its use in statute, NRS 439.265.

WebIZ serves as a one-stop patient record for immunizations for children and adults and if you visit a provider who gives immunizations or another health district in Nevada, your records are available to your provider. So that means no more guessing about your son’s MMR schedule or if your daughter has received all of the appropriate doses of her pertussis vaccine. If you visited the health district and had no records for your child, he or she would have to receive the series from the beginning to ensure all required vaccines were up to date.

And many things stay the same. Your immunization record from WebIZ also has your name, birthdate, immunization, vial number, etc. The more things change . . .

We hope you have enjoyed our final issue of the "Retro Perspective," which commenorates the health district's 50th anniversary. Look for new issues of the "Perspective" in 2013. We wish you a happy and healthy New Year!

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