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The Dangers of Improper Vaccine Storage and How Your Lab Can Avoid Them

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), errors in storage and handling cause significant financial losses each year due to wasted vaccines and result in many patients having to be re-vaccinated. While the vaccine cold chain relies on other parts of the supply chain that you have no control over, including actions taken by the manufacturer and distributor, there are definitely aspects of vaccine storage that provide protection to the quality and integrity of the vaccines you’re providing to your clients. Here are some of the dangers that exist within the realm of vaccine storage and how you can avoid these potential dangers.

Failures In the Cold Supply Chain

Cold supply chain failures can happen at any phase of the process from manufacturing to administering the vaccine. Your staff should be trained on properly receiving vaccine shipments, inspecting the shipments, and placing the vaccines in cold storage right away. Make sure that vaccines are unpacked before being placed in the refrigerator, as the cool packs that kept the vaccines at a safe temperature during transport may cause the vaccines to be too cold if they remain next to the vaccines in storage. 

Using the Wrong Type of Cold Storage

The VFC program prohibits the use of household or dormitory-style refrigeration units for the storage of vaccines due to their inferior ability to maintain a consistent temperature. While you may be tempted to save money by using one of these units, doing so will not only place you out of compliance with the program but will also likely result in wasted vaccines. Use purpose-built or pharmaceutical-grade units that are equipped with fan-forced air circulation or multiple cool air vents. These units are sufficient for maintaining the required temperature and fast temperature recovery after warm air has entered the unit when the doors are open.

Exposure to Freezing Temperatures

While a number of cold chain storage problems may reduce the potency of vaccines, allowing a vaccine to freeze is perhaps the most devastating of all. Freezing temperatures may completely eliminate the potency of a vaccine, rendering it useless against the disease it was designed to prevent. Vaccines should be stored at a consistent temperature between 36-46 degrees F. The CDC recommends using a temperature monitoring device known as a digital data logger to alert you if the temperature of your vaccine refrigerator drops below this. Your digital data logger must come with a certificate of calibration, ensuring the accuracy of the temperature monitoring device.

Loss of Power to Your Vaccine Cold Storage Unit

Vaccines that are allowed to become warm also provide no protection against diseases. One of the common ways that a vaccine becomes warm is if there is a loss of power to the refrigerator where you store your vaccines. Your vaccine refrigerator should have its own designated outlet, complete with a safety lock or outlet cover to prevent someone from accidentally unplugging the unit. You should also place warning signs at the outlet so that others do not unplug the unit. Additionally, fuses and circuit breakers should also be clearly labeled. Many American Biotech Supply units for vaccine cold storage also come with an alarm system to alert you in the case of an alarm failure.

Improper Air Circulation

The inability of air to circulate in your unit due to overloading also contributes to temperature instability. Care should be taken to ensure that you’ve selected a cold storage solution that is large enough to appropriately contain all of your vaccine supply with space between vaccines for air flow. American Biotech Supply has a variety of unit sizes to accommodate your supply.

Failure to Maintain Your Vaccine Refrigerator and Temperature Monitoring Device

Your vaccine refrigerator and temperature monitoring device need regular maintenance in order to operate properly. You should regularly inspect seals and door hinges, clean coils and other components, clean the interior of the unit to discourage the growth of mold, and calibrate your temperature monitoring device when needed.

Failure to Dispose of Wasted Vaccines

Continuing to store expired or damaged vaccines not only contributes to a disorganized environment in your lab, but also could result in a client receiving a vaccine that is no longer of the desired potency. In addition, expired vaccines take up valuable space in your refrigerator. Regularly inspect the expiration dates and the integrity of the vaccine vial and syringe to ensure that your clients receive the highest quality vaccine you can provide. Dispose of vaccines that are damaged or expired in accordance with your state’s vaccine disposal standards.

Failure to Prepare for Emergencies

Equipment failures, power failures, and natural disasters are a frequent contributor to vaccine waste. Your emergency preparedness plan for your lab should include provisions for your vaccine supply, including a backup generator to keep your vaccines cool during power failure and an agreement with an alternative storage facility that you can access 24/7. Having an external temperature monitoring display can help you to monitor the temperature inside the unit without opening the door, which may be a viable solution for a power outage that is only expected to last for a short period of time.

Maintaining a cold supply chain for vaccines is vital for retaining the viability of the vaccines you administer to your clients. There are a number of other measures you can take in order to ensure safe storage of vaccines, including providing your staff with training and clearly stated standard operating procedures to deal with issues that may impact the cold supply chain. If it is time to replace your temperature controlled cold storage unit, you can trust American Biotech Supply. We have been providing our clients with quality cold storage options in the size and style that works best within the space they have for a quarter of a century while continuing to provide the industry-leading customer support long after the unit has been purchased. Contact us for more information about Authorized Distribution Partners in your region.


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