Tips and Tricks to Properly Store Vaccines


There is no question that vaccines have saved millions of lives around the world. For more than 300 years, they have been used to stop and prevent the spread of deadly diseases such as smallpox, polio, and the flu. The first known use of a vaccine was in 1796. That is the year Edward Jenner created the “arm-to-arm” inoculation system. He was using it to innoculate people from smallpox by using cowpox. We have come a long way in the intervening 300 years. Today, the question is not whether to use vaccines but rather how to get them where they are needed and how to use technology such as vaccine refrigerators to keep them safe until they are used.

Today, many local and national pharmacies give vaccines and immunizations as a way to grow their business. It has been estimated that about 74% of all independent pharmacies offer these to their customers. One challenge this presents is the proper storage of vaccines. They are very sensitive to changes in temperature. It can take mere seconds to kill or destroy a batch of vaccines. This is one reason it is so important to have the right vaccine refrigerator freezer.

Of course, by killing your vaccines, you are also hurting your bottom line so it is both a health risk and bad business to not take the care need to keep your vaccines stored properly. This is one of the reasons the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a list of best practices for the handling and storage of vaccines.

The CDC reports that from the point of manufacture to the time of use, vaccines need to be treated very carefully. If at any time they are exposed to the wrong temperature, which is anything outside of a certain window, they can impact the potency of the vaccine or even destroy it altogether. The problem is there may not be any visual cues to show that there is a problem with one batch or another so there is no way to tell externally if a vaccine is good or has gone bad.

Vaccines need to be tended to the minute they arrive at a pharmacy. It is imperative that they are placed in the correct storage, such as a stand alone freezer for vaccines as soon as possible.

Having one point person to deal with vaccines as they arrive can cut down on mistakes. This person needs to be trained on the importance of getting vaccines into the pharmaceutical grade refrigerator as soon as possible.

This checklist should be followed as the product is placed in a vaccine refrigerator:

  • Examine the containers for problems.
  • Compare the product you have with the packing paperwork.
    Look at the shipping temperature indicators. This will let you know that
  • throughout the transport process, the vaccines were maintained at the proper temperature.
  • Do not trust the way the vaccine looks. If there looks like the containers have been damaged or they were not kept in a vaccine refrigerator at the correct temperature, they will have to be discarded as they can no longer be trusted to be effective or safe.

The CDC also recommends that when pharmacies select vaccine refrigerators to use for their storage, care is taken to get the right kind. Some vaccines need to be stored in a pharmacy grade refrigerator while others need to be put into a pharmacy freezer. This is dependent on the kind of vaccines you are offering.

Proper maintenance of the vaccine refrigerator is also essential to keeping them viable. Your equipment needs to have sensors and fans to circulate air around the vaccines. If either of these systems starts to fail, it can be impossible to tell if the vaccines are still good. Keeping a close eye on any equipment used to store vaccines can help you keep your stock good and safe.

There are few developments in the world of medicine that have had such a dramatic impact on human health than vaccines. It has been estimated that every year, about 2.5 million people are saved by getting a vaccine. Diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox, polio, and others used to kill millions of people every year but that is no longer the case.

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