Immunization is a simple, safe and effective way to protect children and adults of all ages from a wide variety of potentially deadly diseases. Cases of vaccine-preventable diseases are at or near record lows, but we cannot take high levels of immunization for granted. The Tennessee Immunization Program is responsible for promoting the proper use of all recommended vaccines, in collaboration with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners. It is our goal that at least 90% of people in Tennessee receive each vaccine recommended to protect them from disease. Reaching this goal involves more than giving vaccine – it requires public health activities such as tracking children who are in need of vaccination, educational outreach, and promoting public awareness of the continued importance of vaccination across a lifetime. For more information about immunizations, visit the CDC Vaccines Homepage.
For vaccines to be most beneficial, they need to be administered on-time, according to the schedule recommended by pediatricians and the CDC. Each year, the Tennessee Immunization Program conducts a survey to track the number of Tennessee children who are immunized on-time by their second birthday. Click here to see the Results of the Immunization Status Survey Of 24-Month-Old Children in Tennessee.
Tennessee’s Immunization Registry records all vaccines given to Tennessee residents in health departments and participating provider offices. The registry was instituted in 1998 to maintain an accurate and complete immunization history for children. Healthcare providers may access the registry at https://twis.tn.gov/twisprod/; registration and a password are required for access and may be requested by phone at 615-741-7247 or 800-404-3006.
Children in Tennessee must have certain required vaccines in order to attend child care, school or college. Required vaccines include some, but not all, vaccines that are routinely recommended for all children by the CDC and the American Academies of Family Practice and Pediatrics.
State law (T.C.A. 49-6-5002) requires child care facilities and schools through 12th grade to accept only an Official Immunization Certificate provided by the Department of Health, completed and signed by a physician or health care provider administering immunizations, as proof of immunization for enrollment purposes. Official certificates may be completed by local health departments or by a Tennessee health care provider. It is not acceptable to staple records to a copy of the official certificate or to use any unofficial version of a certificate for enrollment.
Tennessee health care providers may obtain copies of official certificates from local health departments or enroll for free access to the State Immunization Registry through TWIS to print out the certificate. Shots recorded in the registry are automatically printed on the child’s certificate when using TWIS.
It is important to keep copies of immunization records in a safe place. Locating lost records later in life can be challenging, if not impossible, especially for adults. There are several different strategies that may be used. It is helpful to know who administered the immunizations or where they were administered. If the vaccines were given by a private physician who is still in practice, then contact that clinic. If the vaccines were given by a county health department, contact that health department; however, they may not have records for patients now over 18 years of age. Tennessee’s Immunization Registry can be checked by a physician or health department and may have information for children born after January 1, 1994. Records may also be available from the most recent school attended. The national Immunization Action Coalition has additional advice for locating immunization information.
Vaccines and immunization services are available through all county health departments in Tennessee and at over 1500 physicians’ offices. Doctors enrolled in the federal Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) may give free, federally-funded vaccine to eligible children from birth through18 years of age.
Immunizations are not just for infants and toddlers. There are vaccines designed and recommended to help protect people at every age.
Vaccines recommended for all children in infancy and early childhood protect against 14 important and potentially deadly childhood diseases, including measles, types of bacterial meningitis, severe diarrhea and whooping cough. Additional information on vaccines for young children, including the National Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule, is available from the CDC.
Certain vaccines are important for preteens (ages 11-12) and older teens. At age 11 or 12, all children should receive a booster shot to protect them against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) through young adulthood; this is also the time to vaccinate them against meningococcal meningitis. The CDC also recommends that all preteen girls receive the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer later in life. This is also the time to catch up on any missed vaccinations.
Every adult should discuss with their healthcare provider what vaccines they need, according to the CDC National Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule. A booster vaccine is now available against tetanus diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). The vaccine to help prevent shingles (herpes zoster) is now recommended for everyone over age 60. Every person age 65 and older, as well as anyone with chronic illness, also may need a pneumococcal vaccine to help prevent pneumonia.
There is a great deal of information about the safety of vaccines available online, but not all of it is reliable. The sites listed below are governmental, non-governmental and academic. All provide reliable information about vaccine safety for healthcare professionals, parents and others:
Influenza season typically runs from October through March; the virus typically causes fever, body aches, cough and sore throat, but has deadly complications for an average of 36,000 Americans every year. Getting seasonal influenza vaccine each fall or winter is the best way to protect anyone who wants to avoid the flu, but is most important for people at higher risk of complications: children 6 months to 5 years, adults over age 50, pregnant women, and anyone with chronic health problems (like asthma, diabetes or heart disease). Those who live with or care for people at risk for severe illness (such as family members and health care providers) also should be vaccinated. Influenza vaccine is available in the form of an injection or nasal spray.
Pandemic influenza is a worldwide outbreak of influenza caused when a new strain of influenza virus circulates among people. The Tennessee Department of Health offers additional information and resources: