The flu season is almost upon us and so is the time to consider getting our annual flu shot. For some of us, a flu shot is not a pleasant activity … but there is more to vaccination than just needles!
Proper vaccine storage and handling is an important factor in preventing and eradicating many common vaccine-preventable diseases. Yet, each year, storage and handling errors result in revaccination of many patients and significant financial loss due to wasted vaccine.
Temperature plays a big part! The vaccine cold chain is a temperature-controlled environment used to maintain and distribute vaccines in optimal condition. All vaccines must be stored according to the manufacturer’s recommendation for that product. In general, the following rules apply:
- Vaccines that are sensitive to freezing temperatures, require refrigeration at 2⁰C to 8 ⁰C or (36⁰F to 46 ⁰F).
- Vaccines that contain live viruses lose potency when exposed to increased temperatures and should be stored in the freezer at temperatures of -50°C to -15°C (-58⁰CF to 5°F).
An exception to the rule is for the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) which is routinely stored in the refrigerator, but can also be stored in the freezer (MMR in the lyophilized state is not affected detrimentally by freezing temperatures).
Excessive heat or cold exposure damages the potency of the vaccine and once potency is lost it can never be restored. Each time vaccine is exposed to excessive heat or cold, the loss of potency increases and eventually, if the cold chain is not correctly maintained, all potency will be lost resulting in inadequate immune responses in patients and poor protection against disease.
Some vaccines are also sensitive to light and must be protected from light at all times to prevent loss of potency. These types of vaccines are stored within the recommended temperature range in closed boxes until they are needed.
Ensuring that vaccines are safe to use is an on-going activity, from the time of manufacturing to the time the vaccine is administered. For more information, check out the “Vaccine Storage & Handling Toolkit” released in June 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is a comprehensive guide to managing the vaccine cold-chain.
Thermodata helps clinics and laboratories track and manage the temperature of their refrigerators easily and reliably. The Thermodata Sentinel is a specialized Wi-Fi fridge monitor that continuously monitors the temperature in fridges and freezers and reports temperature excursions. The monitor is affixed to the outside of a refrigerator or freezer and a connected sensor on a flat tape is positioned inside the unit, without interfering with the effectiveness of the door seals. The sensor is calibrated in our in-house laboratory to ISO17025 and has an accuracy of ±0.25⁰C.