October 17, 2012
Pharmacies May Need to Upgrade Equipment for
Vaccine Storage

Atlanta—Dormitory-style mini refrigerators or even full-sized refrigerator/freezer combinations are not adequate for storing vaccine at pharmacies or anywhere else, according to new guidance from the CDC.

The CDC recently issued the Interim Vaccine Storage and Handling Guidance, recommending that the new guidelines should be used by all public and private sector providers. Public health officials said that while “cost may be a barrier, we encourage practices to move toward implementing these recommendations as soon as possible.”

The recommendations, developed in response to recent scientific studies of optimal equipment for storage and handling of vaccines, include use of the following:

• Biosafe glycol-encased probe or a similar temperature-buffered probe instead of measurement of ambient air temperatures;
• Digital data loggers with detachable probes that record and store temperature information at frequent programmable intervals for 24-hour temperature monitoring rather than noncontinuous temperature monitoring; and
• Stand-alone refrigerator and stand-alone freezer units suitable for vaccine storage rather than combination (refrigerator-freezer) or other units not designed for storing fragile biologics, such as vaccines.

The new guidelines also call for weekly review of vaccine expiration dates and frequent rotation of vaccine stock.

In explaining the recommendations about storage, the CDC said any unit should have enough space to store the year’s largest inventory without crowding as well as sufficient room to store water bottles in the refrigerator and frozen coolant packs in the freezer to stabilize the temperature and minimize temperature fluctuations that affect vaccine potency.

For refrigerated product, water bottles (not gel packs) reduce the risk of freezing because of latent heat released from water prior to freezing. The CDC also recommends frost-free or automatic defrost cycle units.

“Because freezing of refrigerated vaccines affects vaccine potency more than other exposure problems, it is especially important that refrigerators be selected and set up in a way that eliminates the chance of freezing vaccine. Use of stand-alone units is a best practice,” public health officials said.

Dormitory or bar-style refrigerator/freezers are not recommended for any vaccine storage and are not allowed for use by any Vaccines for Children (VFC) program providers.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect