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Medical refrigeration: How to store vaccines correctly

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Labcold pharmacy fridge 36 litresIt is vital that vaccines are stored correctly. Storage and handling errors can result in reduced effectiveness and potency of the vaccines and, therefore, loss of protection for patients. This can not only cost you money in wasted vaccines, it can also lead to a loss of patient confidence and a vaccination that simply does not work.

Audit trail

Vaccines must be stored correctly from manufacture through to administration. It is recommended that you keep a logbook for your vaccine storage equipment, containing the serial number, the date of installation, routine maintenance dates, and the contact details of the unit provider.

Storage equipment options

Vaccines must be refrigerated in order to keep their efficacy. If the vaccine needs to be kept frozen, the freezer unit must be kept at a temperature between -50°C and -15°C. Refrigerated vaccines should be stored at a temperature between 2°C and 8°C, averaging 5°C.

It is recommended that you use a dedicated Labcold medical fridge or Labcold pharmacy fridge for the storage of vaccines.

Stand-alone refrigeration units are recommended for vaccine storage because they maintain the requisite temperatures more accurately than combination units. Stand-alone units are self-contained units that either refrigerate or freeze. They may be countertop size, medium-sized under the counter units, or large, pharmaceutical grade units.

Dormitory-style units with one external door and a cooling coil inside a small icemaker compartment should not be used vaccine storage, even temporarily, as they do not maintain a constant temperature. 

Equipment maintenance

It is preferable to have a unit with a frost-free or automatic defrost cycle. However, if the unit requires manual defrosting, it must be defrosted regularly and you must have a spare storage unit available that can maintain the correct temperature for the vaccines during temporary storage. 

Immunisation

Storage unit placement

Your storage unit should be sited in a well-ventilated room with several centimetres of fresh air between all sides of the unit and the top. Be careful not to block the motor cover and make sure that the unit is standing level with a few centimetres between the floor and the unit bottom. 

Temperature control

The temperature inside both the freezer and fridge should be checked twice each day, in the morning and at the end of the work day. The temperatures should be noted on a log sheet that is kept on the unit door.

At Four Square Healthcare, we offer a wide range of dedicated Labcold medical fridges. We accept NHS purchase orders and, in addition, all NHS funded GP surgeries, NHS hospitals or Trusts, and all UK police forces qualify for an automatic 30-day credit account. Shop online or contact the helpful team at Four Square Healthcare for more information.