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Handling Vaccine Storage Problems

Because vaccines must be stored within fairly precise temperature ranges, health care providers go to great lengths to store their vaccines safely and are ready to handle any storage problems that come up.

A "Do Not UnPlug" sign on your vaccine refrigerator can help make sure your vaccines don't get ruined.
A “Do Not UnPlug” sign on your vaccine refrigerator can help make sure your vaccines don’t get ruined.

From a power failure to someone leaving the door of the refrigerator open, if you aren’t prepared, you can lose all of your vaccines.

Handling Vaccine Storage Problems

Before we get to preventing vaccine storage problems, you should know how to handle a temperature excursion in your vaccine refrigerator or freezer.

“Any temperature reading outside ranges recommended in the manufacturers’ package inserts is considered a temperature excursion. Identify temperature excursions quickly and take immediate action to correct them. This can prevent vaccine waste and the potential need to revaccinate patients.”

Handling a Temperature Excursion in Your Vaccine Storage Unit

Most importantly, don’t use any of the vaccines as you work through the problem.

Next, as soon as someone discovers a temperature excursion, they should:

  1. Notify whoever is in charge of vaccine storage in your clinic or office and work through your emergency response worksheet.
  2. If necessary, unless the temperature excursion was caused by a temporary problem that was already fixed, move the affected vaccines to a working vaccine refrigerator or freezer or temporary vaccine storage unit, being sure that they are labeled “do not use.”
  3. Carefully document all of the details of the temperature excursion.
  4. Contact the vaccine manufacturers and your state Vaccines for Children representative (if you were using state vaccines) for further guidance.

What further guidance will you get?

It depends on how long the vaccines were out of their recommended temperature range, which vaccines were affected, and if they got too hot or too cold.

Preventing Vaccine Storage Problems

Of course, it would be much better to prevent these types of vaccine storage problems then have to deal with them after they happen.

How do you do that?

In addition to using a digital data logger that will monitor vaccine storage temperatures, it can help to have a:

  • commercial grade stand-alone refrigerator and freezer units, no combo units and no dorm-style units
  • battery backup or generator for power failures
  • door alarm for your refrigerator and freezer
  • vaccine datalogger that can send text or email alerts to notify you of problems
  • daily log with the minimum and maximum temperatures of your vaccine refrigerator and freezer units, recorded twice a day
  • cooler to transport or temporarily store your vaccines

And most importantly, have an emergency response plan in place so that you are prepared for any vaccine storage problems you might face.

More on Vaccine Storage Emergencies

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