Buying a Vaccine Refrigerator

Except for a few vaccines that must be frozen, vaccines must be refrigerated.

vaccine-refrigerator
Vaccines must be stored properly at the right temperature or they will lose their potency. Photo by Suplee/NIST

These vaccines should be stored in a vaccine refrigerator at a temperature between 36°F and 46°F (2°C and 8°C), with a target of 40°F (5°C).

You can’t just put vaccines in any old refrigerator though.

Buying a Vaccine Refrigerator

Although there are many types of refrigerators in which you could store your vaccines, ideally, a pediatrician’s best and safest option is a biologic-grade, full-sized, stand-alone refrigerator.

You have options though.

A dormitory style refrigerator is not one of them. However, although it is discouraged, you can use a stand-alone household refrigerator. Just don’t store anything besides vaccines in it at the same time! And make plans to replace it with a medical-grade refrigerator as soon as you possibly can.

Choosing the Best Vaccine Storage Refrigerator

Among the key features to look for when buying a vaccine refrigerator, include:

  • an electronic, microprocessor controlled, digital thermostat, avoiding a mechanical or analog thermostat or dial
  • user programmable temperature alarming in case the refrigerator temperature begins to get too hot or too cold
  • remote alarm contacts
  • an external temperature display so that you don’t have to open the refrigerator door to check the air temperature
  • adjustable wire shelving, instead of solid shelving, to improve circulation
  • a probe access port to allow the entry of a temperature probe wire
  • interior fan-forced air circulation to equalize the temperature throughout the refrigerator
  • a solid door, instead of a glass door, as a solid door will maintain the refrigerator’s temperature longer if the power goes out, although a glass door can help with inventory control
  • an audible door alarm, so that you are alerted if the door is left open
  • a self-closing door
  • a keyed door lock with multiple keys
  • a refrigerator that is large enough to fit all of your inventory without any crowding, especially when you have a full stock of vaccines, including flu vaccines, at your busiest time of year (this is your maximum stock level or calculated peak dose inventory). Remember that you also need extra space for water bottles to help stabilize the temperature during power failures.

And make sure your new vaccine storage refrigerator fits where you want to put it and that the door opens in the direction (right vs left hinged, as they are usually not reversible) that you need it to.

How big of a vaccine refrigerator do you need? The Missouri Dept of Health and Human Service provide a rough guide.
How big of a vaccine refrigerator do you need? The Missouri Dept of Health and Human Service provide a rough guide.

Biologic grade vaccine refrigerators are available from the following companies:

Choosing a vaccine refrigerator can be confusing, especially since most seem to have all of the features that the CDC and other experts recommend that you look for.

To make it a little easier, consider starting your search with these popular vaccine storage refrigerators (not endorsements):

Since price is going to be a factor, be sure to ask the sales rep for your medical supplies which vaccine refrigerators they can get the best deals on.

And make sure your refrigerator meets any other requirements that you have, especially if you are a Vaccines for Children provider.

What to Know About Buying a Vaccine Refrigerator

Do your research and choose a vaccine storage refrigerator that can easily store all of vaccines without crowding and which has key features to keep them safe and at the proper temperature.

More About Buying a Vaccine Refrigerator

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