Every year, vaccines prevent over 2.5 million unnecessary deaths. Getting children to calmly go to the doctor for a shot of these life-saving medicines is enough of a challenge without having to repeat it because of a spoiled, and therefore ineffective, vaccine dose. Prevent this disaster by knowing how it happens and taking care of the scientific refrigerator that stores the vaccines.
How Do Vaccines Spoil?
Vaccines can quickly spoil if they are not stored properly. Proper storage is heavily dependent on maintaining the correct temperature in the vaccine refrigerator. Most vaccines spoil when they freeze, not because the lab refrigerator breaks down. In either case, storing vaccines outside of the recommended temperature range reduces their potency and protection, costing thousands of dollars in wasted vaccines and in the process of revaccinating. When patients have to be called back in for revaccination, they also lose confidence in the system and vaccine administration gets a bad reputation. From the moment vaccines are manufactured to when they are administered, they need to be stored in the proper environment to preserve their quality.
How To Properly Maintain Your Scientific Refrigerator
The most important part of storing vaccines in a medical refrigerator is ensuring that the temperature is between 35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. While this temperature range is appropriate for most vaccines, look for specific guidance on each type of vaccine your medical facility keeps in stock. Here are a few tricks to make sure that this temperature rarely, if ever, varies.
- Use stand-alone units. If you need a freezer as well, invest in a stand-alone medical freezer for vaccines rather than a combination refrigerator and freezer unit. Temperatures stay much more stable when they are separate and you can vary the units’ sizes more easily depending on what you need.
- Put water bottles in the units. In the event of a power outage, you will want to make sure that the vaccines are being stored in the right temperature for as long as possible. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s a simple, low-tech solution to prevent vaccine spoilage in the event of a power outage. Leave enough room in your medical refrigerators to store water bottles. If the power goes out, these bottles will help maintain the internal temperature for longer. Inside scientific refrigerators and freezers, place water bottles in empty spaces such as the door, top shelf, or floor. Make sure the bottles aren’t interfering with the door’s ability to close and seal properly or any ventilation inside the unit. You may also want to write “Do Not Drink” on the bottles to ensure that no one takes away your temperature stabilizers.
- Regularly check and log temperatures. Record temperatures in all storage units two times a day, once in the morning and once before leaving at the end of the day. Post this log on the storage unit’s door for easy access. If you have a digital data logger, review its record weekly and make sure to calibrate any temperature monitoring devices every one to two years.
For the health of everyone receiving vaccines and for the reputation of your laboratory, it is essential to closely regulate your scientific refrigerator and freezers.