Tag: vaccine storage

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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Which Vaccines Need to be Refrigerated?

Vaccines have to be stored properly.

Mostly that means that they must be kept at a proper temperature, not getting too hot or too cold, “to protect quality and potency” of the vaccines.

While that can be a challenge in some parts of the world, as they go to great lengths to maintain the cold chain for vaccines, in developed countries, it typically means knowing whether to put the vaccine in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Even in the most industrialized city, a power failure can happen or someone can just unplug the refrigerator by mistake.

Which Vaccines Need to be Refrigerated?

Post a list on your refrigerator so that you don't put vaccines in the fridge that should be frozen.
Post a list on your refrigerator so that you don’t put vaccines in the fridge that should be frozen.

While some vaccines are stored frozen, most must be refrigerated.

Vaccines that are kept refrigerated 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).

Of available vaccines, those that must be refrigerated include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hib
  • Gardasil9 (all HPV vaccines)
  • influenza (all flu vaccines)
  • IPV (polio)
  • Menactra, Menveo, Bexsera, Trunembra (Meningococcal)
  • MMR*
  • Prevnar 13, Pneumovax (Pneumococcal)
  • RotaTeq, RotaRix (Rotavirus)
  • Pentacel, Pediarix (all DTaP containing vaccines)
  • Tdap (Adacel and Boostrix)

*The MMR vaccine vaccine can be stored in a freezer or a refrigerator.

Making things a little more confusing, refrigerator stable versions of Varivax and ProQuad, which are usually stored frozen, are also available. They have a shelf life of 24 months when refrigerated, but may also be stored in a freezer.

What do you do if something goes wrong and your refrigerated vaccines have gotten too warm or too cold?

“If you find that a vaccine has been exposed to an inappropriate temperature, determine the reason for the temperature alteration, mark the vaccine “Do Not Use,” and contact the manufacturer or the state or local health department to determine if the vaccine can be used.”

Immunization Action Coalition on Ask the Experts about Vaccine Storage and Handling

Getting educated about proper vaccine storage and handling can avoid many incidents and help you be well prepared if something does go wrong. Once you are all set up and ready to store your vaccines, you just have to know where to put them.

What To Know About Storing Vaccines in a Refrigerator

Vaccines must be kept at a proper temperature, not getting too hot or too cold, “to protect quality and potency” of the vaccines.

More About Storing Vaccines in a Refrigerator

Which Vaccines Need to be Frozen?

Post a note on your vaccine freezer as a reminder about the proper place to store each vaccine.
Post a note on your vaccine freezer as a reminder about the proper place to store each vaccine.

Vaccines must be stored properly.

Mostly that means that they must be kept at a proper temperature, not getting too hot or too cold, “to protect quality and potency” of the vaccines.

While that can be a challenge in some parts of the world, as they go to great lengths to maintain the cold chain for vaccines, in developed countries, it typically means knowing whether to put the vaccine in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Unless of course something goes wrong…

Did your power go out?

Or did someone leave a freezer door open?

Maybe your older freezer just stopped working?

Or maybe someone just unplugged the freezer by mistake.

What do you do if something goes wrong and your frozen vaccines aren’t frozen anymore?

“If you find that a vaccine has been exposed to an inappropriate temperature, determine the reason for the temperature alteration, mark the vaccine “Do Not Use,” and contact the manufacturer or the state or local health department to determine if the vaccine can be used.”

Immunization Action Coalition on Ask the Experts about Vaccine Storage and Handling

Getting educated about proper vaccine storage and handling can avoid many incidents and help you be well prepared if something does go wrong. Once you are all set up and ready to store your vaccines, you just have to know where to put them.

Which Vaccines Need to be Frozen?

While most vaccines are refrigerated, some must be frozen.

Vaccines that are kept frozen should be stored in a freezer at a temperature of 5°F (-15°C) or colder.

Of available vaccines, only non-Refrigerator stable Varivax (chickenpox), non-Refrigerator stable ProQuad (the combo of Varicella and MMR or MMRV), and the shingles vaccine (Zostavax) must be frozen.

The MMR vaccine can be stored in either a freezer or a refrigerator.

The only time non-Refrigerator stable Varivax and non-Refrigerator stable ProQuad can be stored in a refrigerator (36° to 46°F, 2° to 8°C), is if you are going to reconstitute and use them within 72 hours. If the vaccines have been out of a freezer, and you don’t use them within 72 hours, then they must be discarded. You can’t put them back in the freezer.

Also, a reconstituted ProQuad vaccine can be stored at room temperature, protected from light, for up to 30 minutes. You must discard the vaccine if you don’t use it within that time though. It can’t be refrozen or refrigerated.

Making things a little more confusing, refrigerator stable versions of Varivax and ProQuad are also available. They have a shelf life of 24 months when refrigerated, but may also be stored in a  freezer.

What To Know About Storing Vaccines in a Freezer

Vaccines must be kept at a proper temperature, not getting too hot or too cold, “to protect quality and potency” of the vaccines.

More About Storing Vaccines in a Freezer

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