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Time to start keeping better track of vaccinations

It’s 2019 – why are we still relying on handwritten ‘little blue booklets?’

The other day we received a letter in the mail from Fraser Health, notifying us they had no vaccination records for either of our children. They had, however, both been vaccinated with the recommended shots almost exactly on schedule – but they happened in Vancouver, not the Fraser Valley where we live now.

Greater Vancouver, the Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola are all served by Vancouver Coastal Health – and yet vaccination records are not shared between them.

In fact, there is no central registry of all immunizations provided in BC, even though we all have a personal health number.

The Immunize BC website advises, “if you need a copy of your immunization records, there are several places you can look,” including checking your home for paper records: “try looking through baby books or other saved documents.”

You can call your family doctor if you have one (about 16 per cent of British Columbians don’t according to the latest Canadian Institute for Health Information survey), or your local health unit.

We really are counting on parents to be able to find those little blue booklets? It was a running joke among my mom’s group: for your first child you fastidiously keep track of that booklet and remember to bring it with you to each appointment; but by your second child, you likely have no idea where it is past the first immunization.

Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost both of them.

Fraser Health now offers an app and text alerts to help parents keep track but what we really need is not that information in more places, but in one well organized and centralized one.

A couple years ago, I had to track down my kids’ vaccination records to register them for school. I had call two different health authorities, an immunization clinic, and our family doctor. Now that those records have been submitted to the school, and we have a new family doctor and several hospital visits in Fraser Health under our belts, it’s surprising this information hasn’t been recorded into their system.

Families move between health jurisdictions all the time, there really should be a better way to keep track of this information. Digital health records of course have their own opponents, but whether they are easily downloadable or accessible is beside the point. The province really should have vaccination information stored in one place where health authorities can refer.

Immunizations against diseases like tetanus, diphtheria, polio, measles and mumps are an important part of early childhood health and leaving so many possibilities for records to slip through the cracks is doing our children a disservice.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]