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Background: The purpose of this study was to determine adult patients' knowledge about their history of age-appropriate routine vaccinations and vaccine preventable diseases.

Methods: This was a prospective descriptive study using a self-administered questionnaire. During a 9-month period, all patients older than 18 years of age answered a questionnaire at the time of their first visit to a health department travelers' clinic. Questions included knowledge of vaccines that they might have received (against tetanus, diphtheria, polio, measles, rubella, influenza, and pneumococcus); knowledge of illnesses that they might have had (measles and rubella); incidence of visits to a regular physician; and incidence of chronic illness.

Results: Two hundred and twenty patients answered the questionnaire. Eighty-two percent had a regular physician whom they had visited within 5 years. Respondents reported their age-appropriate vaccination history as follows: Td-69%; polio-48%; measles-41%; rubella-38%; influenza-68%; and pneumococcal-13%. For any vaccine, approximately one-third of respondents did not know their status. Age, gender, or a regular source of medical care did not influence the results.

Conclusions: Adult patients frequently did not receive, or do not know whether they received, recommended immunizations. Until physicians giving primary medical care improve patient education about vaccination status and develop a better system for having patients keep records of their routine vaccinations, travel clinics will have to function, in part, as primary health care providers.