Vaccine storage and handling can be as confusing as all get-out. There are a lot of resources and materials to consume, and there are different regulations coming at you from different regulating bodies (i.e. the CDC, the VFC Program, County Health Departments, etc.).
Becoming well-versed in the fine details of vaccine storage takes a little time, a little work, and a lot of experience (our Vaccine Storage & Handling White Paper is a good place to start that journey!), but just about any vaccine distributor can pick up the big no-no’s and yes-yes’s of vaccine storage pretty quickly. Here is the Dickson list of "Do’s and Don’ts" for vaccine storage. Know them like the back of your hand.
Do: Monitor with a data logger.
Yes! Data Loggers! The time has come to start monitoring with a data logger (a digital device that takes temperature readings). While the chart on your fridge door may stay intact, that old mercury thermometer has got to go. Digital data loggers allow vaccine providers to set alarms when temperatures go out of range, and provide better accuracy than a mercury thermometer or chart recorder. Speaking of chart recorders . . .
Don’t: Monitor with a chart recorder.
Exchange that old chart recorder for a data logger. Trust us, it’s time. The CDC now recommends data loggers and NOT chart recorders for vaccine storage. While it is nice to have the physical readout of your temperatures on a chart, right in front of your eyes, chart recorders just aren’t accurate or secure enough to guarantee a vaccine’s storage conditions.
Do: Use a temperature probe buffer.
Glass beads or Glycol solution will do the trick. A remote probe and temperature buffer are essential to vaccine monitoring. After the data logger itself, having a remote probe that is encased in a temperature buffer is the next step. Inserting your remote probe into a temperature buffer allows the probe to read temperatures that mimic the temperatures of you vaccine.
Don’t: Use a dorm style fridge.
Dorm style fridges are small, waist high refrigerators common to...college dorms. And they are not effective at keeping temperatures within 35-46F. The CDC ruled these refrigerators out years ago, yet we still come across them from time to time. If you are storing your vaccines in a dorm style fridge, knock it off.
Do: Make sure refrigerators and freezers can’t be unplugged.
How do you do that? With signs, protective plug cases, and letting everyone who might come near the fridge know that it should never, ever be unplugged! Losing power to your cold vaccine storage will be a logistical nightmare, with possibly thousands of dollars of useful vaccines having to be thrown away. So, post signs stating ”Don’t Unplug” at your refrigerator or freezer’s electrical outlet (the CDC provides free printouts for just this purpose), consider buying secure plug cases, and be sure to alert your team (that includes the cleaning crew!) that the refrigerators and freezers should never be unplugged.
Don’t: Use non-calibrated data loggers.
A NIST Traceable Calibration performed by an A2LA or similarly accredited laboratory is the best way to ensure your data logger’s accuracy. Make sure when you buy your data logger, it comes with a Certificate of Calibration.
And those are the things that you should and shouldn't be doing in vaccine storage. Got other suggestions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.