Vaccines strengthen people’s resistance to infectious diseases and their immunity. Millions of people receive vaccines every year.
The World Health Organization says that immunization is a proven tool to control life-threatening infectious diseases. Over 3 million people lose their lives annually due to such diseases.
Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective investments to protect people’s health.
What Are Vaccines?
Vaccines contain antigens, which are similar to viruses, such as chickenpox, measles, and mumps. The antigens in vaccines are either weak or dead, so they cannot cause the disease. They can trigger an immune system response that can produce antibodies to guard people against diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) attributes the proper storage and handling procedures in keeping vaccines in the appropriate conditions. Due to the guidelines, vaccine-preventable disease rates have decreased.
Healthcare service providers will lose time and money due to improper vaccine storage procedures, damaging their vaccine stocks. And in such a case, they have to incur monetary losses in replacing the damaged vaccine stocks.
If somehow, they administer damaged vaccines to people, they need re-vaccinations.
So, let us explore the best practices of vaccine storage:
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Selecting the Right Cold Storage Units
Healthcare facility owners should deploy dedicated staff to handle vaccines. They should purchase CDC-recommended cold-storage units to prevent vaccine damages or from getting compromised.
CDC recommends standalone, self-contained vaccine refrigerators and freezers units. There are various cold storage units in the market, giving you the option to choose from compact, counter-top, under-the-counter, and pharmaceutical grade units. However, transportation of vaccines brings another challenge. These cold storage units are large and require a lot of energy, making them unsuitable for the transportation of vaccines. This issue was recently highlighted with the many Coronavirus vaccines that needed to be transported on a global scale. This issue was overcome by using dry ice boxes that could maintain extremely cold temperatures, while being easy and cost effective to use during transportation
Such cold storage units can maintain the prescribed temperature better than the regular household units. For vaccine storage, healthcare facilities should use a standalone freezer that can keep the requisite temperature uniformly. Besides, the cold storage units should have enough space to hold the entire vaccine stock during their busiest time.
Ensure that there is no crowding of vaccines inside the freezer. And there has to be enough space inside the unit to store water bottles to stabilize the internal temperature.
Do not fail to defrost your freezer periodically if it is a standalone model. Before you defrost your freezer, transfer the constituent vaccines into a separate freezer.
Proper Air Circulation
Good air circulation is necessary for your freezer to work properly. Place your freezer in a well-ventilated room with enough space around its sides. It will help if you allow at least four inches of clearance. Do not allow debris to block the motor compartment’s cover. The unit should stand firmly with one or two inches between its bottom and the floor.
Avoid Prohibited Units
Do not use prohibited cold storage units for keeping vaccines. The CDC prohibits storing vaccines in dormitory-style, bar-style, or combined freezer units, not even temporarily.
The dorm-style refrigerators exhibit extreme temperature stability issues in storage areas. These units have one exterior door and an evaporator plate in the ice maker compartment. Besides, such units pose a risk for short and long-term freezing.
Monitoring the internal temperature of the unit is essential for proper vaccine storage. The CDC recommends tracking and recording the internal temperatures at least two times a day–once in the morning and at the end of the day.
You should practice temperature monitoring even if your freezer bears the facility of continuously recording the internal temperature.
Record the minimum and maximum temperatures in the freezer during the day, and figure out if there is a deviation from the prescribed range.
If your unit does not show the maximum and minimum temperatures, check the internal temperature at least two times a day to check for any temperature excursions.
After you record the temperature, do not forget to push the reset button.
Temperature Monitoring Devices
When it comes to storing vaccines properly, they must stay in the prescribed temperature environment to stay potent. As such, do not fall behind in monitoring your cold storage unit’s internal temperature, as it is a critical step to maintain vaccines effectively.
Healthcare facility owners should use a calibrated digital data logger with a current, valid calibration testing certificate to monitor the internal freezer temperature.
The supremacy of a digital data logger lies in higher accuracy in temperature monitoring than regular devices.
The CDC recommends healthcare providers storing VFC vaccines use calibrated temperature monitoring devices.
Bear in mind that the accuracy of such devices degrades over time due to prolonged use. It is, therefore, advisable for healthcare service providers to conduct periodic calibration testing every one to two years. The testing standards should conform to those listed in the CDC’s Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit. If the testing indicates any unreliability in temperature monitoring, replace the device at once.
The place where you keep the temperature monitoring device is also an important point to consider. It is advisable to place the buffered probe with the vaccines.
You should place the temperature monitoring device’s probe in the central unit, away from walls, ceilings, cooling vents, doors, and floors.
Before you store any vaccines in your freezer, allow the temperature inside the unit to stabilize.
A competent staff is essential to ensure proper vaccine storage. So, do not fall behind in imparting formal training to your staff on handling vaccines properly.
You should deploy a dedicated vaccine coordinator to check your freezer temperature regularly. He should take corrective action when the temperature goes out of range.
The coordinator should check the temperature twice a day and record the temperatures on a log. He also should check if there are any malfunctions with the freezer and rotate the vaccine stock to allow vaccines closest to their expiration date to be used first.
There are more things for the coordinator to do. He should also remove expired vaccines and diluents from the unit to prevent using them on people.
The coordinator should also notify the relevant authority about any temperature excursions, if they occur, to help actuate the corrective action. He should maintain all temperature-related records.
Vaccine storage is a risky affair. Healthcare facility owners should take adequate care to store vaccines in the right temperature environment to preserve vaccines’ potency.
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