As the world faces more threats from viruses than ever and scientists work diligently to create vaccines to help people against these diseases, it’s more important than ever to understand the proper storage of vaccines.
Vaccines save lives by preventing people from getting diseases such as the flu, but their efficacy only works if they are stored properly and under the correct temperatures. We’ve put together this guide to help people understand the importance of temperature monitoring and proper vaccine storage and handling.
Vaccines are a vital part of our healthcare system for people of all ages, so learn why storage and temperature control are important.
Vaccine Storage and Potency
Why is proper storage and temperature a major issue with vaccines? It would be nice to be able to keep vaccines in any condition, but that isn’t the case. Vaccines are fragile and if they are exposed to too much heat, cold or light, then they could lose potency.
Once potency is lost, there’s nothing that can be done to regain it. Also, there is no way to visibly see if a vaccine has lost its potency. The danger of not storing vaccines properly is when people receive the vaccine, they may not get the protection intended.
They could still be impacted by the disease even if they received the vaccine because the vaccine lost its potency.
The Vaccine Cold Chain
A vaccine must be safely stored from the moment it’s manufactured until it’s administered to the patient. Every time it’s removed from proper storage the potency is reduced. The cold chain is a flow chart of responsibility for storage and temperature control.
The vaccine begins at the manufacturing plant and the responsibility for storage belongs to the manufacturer. It then moves to the distribution whether by the manufacturer or through a third party. The provider for the distribution is responsible for the storage.
Once the vaccine arrives at the provider, the provider takes control from the arrival through standard storage until the administration of the vaccine. The cold chain depends on educating staff on proper procedures, maintaining reliable storage and temperature monitoring equipment, and inventory management.
Cold chain failure can ruin an entire batch of vaccines, which us cist for whatever party is responsible for the storage.
Storage of Vaccines Begins with Training
Anyone that interacts with the vaccines along the cold chain requires education on proper storage and handling. There should be a detailed and well-written storage and handing procedure list available for anyone who needs information on the standard operating procedures.
The standard operating procedures should be located near storage units. All employees should be trained with their name and training dates written down.
Each facility should have one person who oversees all storage and handling of vaccines. The vaccine coordinator handles ordering, overseeing receipt and storage of vaccines, creating vaccine inventory, setting up temperature monitoring, and handling any issues with the vaccines.
Proper Storage Equipment
All vaccines must be stored in a pharmaceutical-grade refrigeration unit. Do not use a unit with a dual refrigerator and freezer unit as this increases the chance of freezing the vaccine. Pharmaceutical-grade refrigeration units are designed to handle biological materials.
They contain a microprocessor temperature with a digital temperature sensor. There is also circulation by multiple fans or air vents for fast temperature recovery. The unit should have a single door that must be sealed. Doors that are not sealed or left open can reduce the potency of vaccines through light and temperature problems.
Units can come with self-closing hinges or with an alarm to make sure they close efficiently. New ad repaired equipment can take 2 to 7 days to properly regulate temperature.
Recommended Temperature Ranges for Vaccines
Refrigeration units should have a constant temperature between 26 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Each unit has a unique thermostat, so examine the owner’s manual on the proper method of setting the temperature.
Every vaccine refrigeration unit must have a temperature monitoring device (TMD). This device keeps a history of the temperature in the unit to determine if there were any points that the vaccines were outside the proper temperature range.
The most common type of monitoring device is a digital data logger. It includes not only temperature collection, but also how long the vaccines were outside of the recommended ranges. Regularly download the temperature information from the data logger or procured from the manufacturer’s website and keep it for three years.
A proper data logger should have an alarm if the temperatures go out of range and a low battery light to remind you to replace the batteries. Each unit should have a backup data logger in case one breaks down. There should be a data logger not only in vaccine storage units but also in transport units during distribution.
The data logger must go through occasional calibration testing every two or three years that includes the data of calibration, confirmation of passing the calibration test, and a temperature uncertainty of less than positive or negative 1 degree Fahrenheit.
Do Not Use These Types of Monitoring Devices
While anything that measures temperature can be a TMD, certain types should not be used. A thermometer with alcohol or mercury, bimetal stem TMDs, temperature devices used for food, infrared TMD, and any TMD that doesn’t have a valid calibration testing certificate.
If you use any of these devices, then you risk the potency of the vaccine as they do not provide high-quality temperature results.
Vaccine Storage Odds and Ends
Each storage unit should have a dedicated electrical outlet to reduce the risk of a fire hazard or tripping the breaker. The outlet should have a lock or cover to prevent it from being accidentally unplugged. Post signs warning people to not unplug the device.
Circuit breakers that go to the storage units should be marked to prevent them from being turned off.
Vaccine Storage Is Vital for Healthcare
The storage of vaccines is extremely important now as people face more dangerous viruses every year. It’s only through proper vaccine temperature monitoring and handling that we can maintain the protections needed against these diseases.
If you want to learn more about temperature monitoring for vaccines or to order some of our equipment, then please contact us today and we’ll be happy to help.