Open Access Research article

The pot calling the kettle black: the extent and type of errors in a computerized immunization registry and by parent report

Shannon E MacDonald12*, Donald P Schopflocher23 and Richard P Golonka4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, 2888 Shaganappi Trail NW, Calgary, Alberta T3B 6A8, Canada

2 Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Level 3, Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405-87 Ave, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 1C9, Canada

3 School of Public Health, University of Alberta, 3–300 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405- 87 Ave, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 1C9, Canada

4 Alberta Health Services, Health Protection, Communicable Disease Control, Main Floor, West Tower Coronation Plaza, 14310-111 Ave, Edmonton, Alberta T5M 3Z7, Canada

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BMC Pediatrics 2014, 14:1  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-1

Published: 4 January 2014



Accurate classification of children’s immunization status is essential for clinical care, administration and evaluation of immunization programs, and vaccine program research. Computerized immunization registries have been proposed as a valuable alternative to provider paper records or parent report, but there is a need to better understand the challenges associated with their use. This study assessed the accuracy of immunization status classification in an immunization registry as compared to parent report and determined the number and type of errors occurring in both sources.


This study was a sub-analysis of a larger study which compared the characteristics of children whose immunizations were up to date (UTD) at two years as compared to those not UTD. Children’s immunization status was initially determined from a population-based immunization registry, and then compared to parent report of immunization status, as reported in a postal survey. Discrepancies between the two sources were adjudicated by review of immunization providers’ hard-copy clinic records. Descriptive analyses included calculating proportions and confidence intervals for errors in classification and reporting of the type and frequency of errors.


Among the 461 survey respondents, there were 60 discrepancies in immunization status. The majority of errors were due to parent report (n = 44), but the registry was not without fault (n = 16). Parents tended to erroneously report their child as UTD, whereas the registry was more likely to wrongly classify children as not UTD. Reasons for registry errors included failure to account for varicella disease history, variable number of doses required due to age at series initiation, and doses administered out of the region.


These results confirm that parent report is often flawed, but also identify that registries are prone to misclassification of immunization status. Immunization program administrators and researchers need to institute measures to identify and reduce misclassification, in order for registries to play an effective role in the control of vaccine-preventable disease.

Immunization; Vaccination; Immunization status; Immunization information system (IIS); Registry; Parent report; Misclassification