CDC Refrigeration Guidelines for Testing COVID-19 Specimens

  • by Kevin Driggers
  • Jun 11, 2020, 12:41 PM

The United States is currently scrambling to develop a vaccine to protect its citizens from COVID-19. However, in the meanwhile, it is important to remember that COVID-19 specimens that are sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are properly handled, stored, and collected. This requires careful refrigeration at the right temperature in order to ensure that the specimens are viable for testing. Read on for more information about what the current guidelines are and how American Biotech's refrigeration products can serve as a valuable partner during this time.

The CDC Guidelines for Specimens and Post Mortem Testing

In order to combat a disease for which there is currently no vaccine, the CDC has issued a number of guidelines for specimens and postmortem testing of individuals who have died from the coronavirus. Among those guidelines are specific instructions pertaining to the safe storage of specimens that include provisions such as:

  • Specimens must be stored at a temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius until they are prepared for shipping. Specimens must be shipped overnight on an ice pack and tested within 72 hours.

  • If shipping must be delayed for any reason, then specimens must be preserved at a temperature of -70 degrees Celsius, or lower,  until such time as they can be shipped.

As we have seen with vaccinations that are improperly stored, failing to follow the CDC guidelines on safe storage can result in extraordinary financial losses due to spoiled vaccines. With COVID-19 regulations, adhering to the recommendations is even more important: failing to properly store specimens to be sent for testing can result in false negative results on those tests -- an error that can result in the loss of human life.

The Right Refrigerators and Freezers for the Job

If your facility needs a temperature-correct place in which to store COVID-19 specimens and will eventually need an area in which to store COVID-19 vaccines when they become available, you will need a refrigerator or freezer that meets the standards that are outlined in the CDC Vaccine Storage and Handling Tool Kit. Among these standards are the ability to:

  • Monitor temperatures inside the unit to ensure that those temperatures do not go above or below the required storage temperature for COVID-19 specimens or for vaccines. Many units that are available from American Biotech Supply feature alarms to warn users if the internal temperature falls out of the required parameters for safe storage of vaccines or specimens.

  • Provide a unit exclusively for the storage of these items or a combination refrigerator and freezer unit in which both compartments have their own compressors, thermostat, and external door.

                                         Group Shot2 

Although the unit can be sized to suit your needs, including anything from a countertop model to a large, side-by-side combination unit, the use of dormitory-style refrigerator/ freezers are prohibited for the safe storage of vaccines. The reason for this is that these units generally have only one exterior door and an evaporator place/ cooling coil located in the freezer compartment. This can cause vaccines to be frozen when stored in the refrigerator unit, even if they are only stored there for a short period of time.

American Biotech Units for COVID-19 Specimen and Vaccine Storage

American Biotech Supply provides a number of CDC-approved refrigeration units and pharmacy or laboratory freezers that are appropriate for scientific and medical applications, in a variety of sizes and models, including freestanding units, counter-top, and under-the-table units. The units include features such as:

  • Precise temperature management via a digital microprocessor temperature control

  • A forced air directional refrigeration system in order to obtain temperature uniformity throughout the unit

  • An automatic cycle-defrost design to prevent temperature spikes

  • Standard shelving systems to keep different items stored in the unit organized and easy to locate

  • A touchscreen temperature display module featuring an alarm system and the latest data logging technology

The CDC recommends that careful attention be paid to the door seal on refrigeration units, as doors being left open by accident or a faulty seal not only results in fluctuations inside of the unit, but can also subject vaccines to light, which can reduce the potency. Our units come with magnetic gasket seals to avoid the risk of vaccines or specimens being lost due to temperature fluctuations or light exposure.

Ultra-Low Temperature Freezers

As mentioned above, COVID-19 specimens that cannot be sent immediately for testing must be stored at temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius or lower. American Biotech Supply provides units of varying capacities and the ability to store items at ultra-low temperatures in alignment with the CDC guidelines. Some of the other benefits provided by American Biotech Supply ULT units include:

  • Programmable temperature lows of -40 degrees Celsius to -86 degrees Celsius.

  • High efficiency compressors that keep the noise-level of the unit low while still having reserve capacity when needed

  • Key locks and door switches that produce audio and visual alarms to prevent the door from being inadvertently left open, causing a temperature fluctuation inside the unit

  • Touchpad keys and four-line display so that programming of the unit is easy

  • Programmable high and low temperature alarm points

  • Battery backups to prevent temperature loss during electrical outages


Your Partner in COVID-19 Specimen Storage

Scientists and drug makers have indicated that the COVID-19 vaccine is going to be developed and distributed to vaccine providers soon, meaning that now is the time to begin preparing your area for the storage of these vaccines. Let our attentive and knowledgeable staff help you select the refrigeration or freezer unit that is right for your space and needs. We offer a full range of cold and ultra-low temperature options and 25 years of experience in providing solutions for those in the healthcare and scientific fields at competitive price points. Let us partner with you in battling this new healthcare crisis safely and sustainably, both now in the testing phase as well as in the future when the vaccines arrive. For more information or to talk to one of our cold storage specialists, contact us today.


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