Vaccines are vital to the continuation of humanity, providing protection from a wide range of devastating diseases. It can be easy to forget that large-scale vaccine production was nonexistent up until very recently — it is a luxury that we cannot take for granted, and that applies to our care and maintenance of the life-saving immunizations. Here are a few ways you can guarantee that the vaccines in your lab sustain their efficiency.
- Keep the medical refrigerator or laboratory freezer clean by regularly washing it with a mild soap-and-water solution.
- Constantly check the functionality of the thermostat and defrost system (if applicable).
- Ensure the vaccine refrigerator or pharmacy freezer door seals are clean, doing your best to avoid build-up of dirt and debris between the folds and at the corners.
- Remove the build-up of ice, either through the defrost system or a blunt scraper (be sure to follow the vaccine temperature rules for this process so they don’t fall out of their allowable ranges)
- Keep the drains beneath and near the medical refrigerator or scientific freezer free of debris.
- Check the appliance level to give it a small fall to the rear (no more than 4mm) to ensure the door always closes after use.
- Clean the condenser coil fins, and ensure they (along with the cooling fan and any grills) are free of dust and debris.
Vaccine refrigerators and freezers comprise an insulated envelope — since vaccine efficiency is dependent on temperature, it is vital that they remain in their ideal temperatures at all times. Cooling systems run for many years but may eventually become ineffective due to: degradation of the insulation, door hinges, door seals, or cracks in the coverings. If condensation or ice appears on the outside, the equipment should be immediately replaced — this represents a break in the seal and, consequently, that the internal temperature is no longer being maintained.
In the event of a break in a system’s pipework, repair isn’t worth pursuing; it is easier and faster to obtain a new unit entirely. Additionally, it may be a smart idea to install a temperature alarm system if the contents are of high relative value — the alarm can give sufficient time for the vaccines to be moved to a safe area before they break down, which saves the lab time and money.