Vaccination is pivotal in preventing and eradicating communicable diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that vaccines save two to three million lives each year. Though these biological substances can create powerful results, vaccines themselves are fragile and need to stay cool to maintain their effectiveness. Some require storage in a vaccine freezer, while others must be refrigerated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines how to properly store and handle vaccines. Storage temperatures differ for each vaccine but generally fall between 58 degrees below zero and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The individuals responsible for these biochemicals must keep them at the right temperatures at all times or risk loss of potency.
New and important vaccines are actively being worked on by the world’s top scientists, and with flu season in full swing, the demand for vaccine freezers and refrigerators is at an all-time high. But not just any cooling equipment can do the job.
Here’s what to look for when considering the purchase of a vaccine freezer or refrigerator and the costs of improperly handling vaccines.
Guidelines for Vaccine Storage and Handling
As a vaccine travels from lab to patient, its integrity is maintained in what’s called a “cold chain,” or a series of steps in cooling units to regulate the temperature. Often, the chain is broken at the last step – in the practitioner’s office or at the site of inoculation. To prevent spoilage, certain steps must be followed when it comes to vaccine storage equipment. Your vaccine freezer or refrigerator should:
- be dedicated only to the storage of vaccines,
- never exposed to direct sunlight,
- not share an electrical outlet with anything else,
- have a “Do Not Unplug” sign on the front,
- be regularly maintained,
- be placed in a well-ventilated room.
Recommendations for Vaccine Freezers & Refrigerators
The CDC recommends purchasing cooling units purposely built for commercial use – preferably of pharmaceutical grade. That said, they do not recommend bar refrigerators or typical household units with a combined freezer and refrigerator because they tend to be inconsistent in temperature.
There are two types of commercial cooling units: vertical or horizontal. For storing vaccines and other biological substances such as insulin, upright freezers and refrigerators are preferred.
Upright units provide better ability to view vaccine inventory by placing perforated plastic trays holding the vials on the shelves. Double-paned glass doors give medical offices better control over their supply, plus they can immediately see if the interior LED light is out, indicating that the power supply is not working.
Ensure that vaccine freezers and refrigerators have self-closing doors to prevent temperature changes in the event that the door is accidentally left open.
Preparing for Vaccine Storage in Your Freezer or Refrigerator
The best way to keep patients safe is through proper storage and handling of vaccines at all times. To make matters more challenging, there is no way to tell if a vial has lost its potency due to improper storage or exposure to temperatures outside of the recommended range.
Before ordering vaccines, medical practitioners should have the following items ready:
- a dedicated vaccine freezer or vaccine refrigerator,
- bottles of water for thermal ballast,
- baskets to organize vials in the vaccine freezer or refrigerator,
- a “Do Not Unplug” sticker,
- a pen and temperature log book,
- a digital thermometer or temperature monitoring device (TMD).
Vaccines and other biological substances, such as insulin, must be handled with extreme care at every step of the way. Medical practitioners must ensure that each vile is kept at the recommended temperature in a commercial grade, specially dedicated vaccine freezer or refrigerator. In addition to risking exposure to disease and potential adverse reactions, improper storage causes wastage and revaccination costs, as well as the loss of patient confidence.
Following the steps above and the CDC’s recommendations are critical to the health and wellness of the public.
Contact us to learn more about vaccine freezers and refrigerators to properly store all your critical biological substances and ensure your patients’ safety.