We all know that vaccines should be stored in low controlled temperatures, which if not adhered to will result in the vaccines losing their potency and therefore become redundant.
It is paramount to store vaccines in purpose-built vaccine refrigerators. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see domestic style refrigerators being used to store vaccines and drugs in chemists, hospitals and even at your local GP. There can be serious implications with doing so as domestic style refrigerators are not designed to handle such a critical product.
The two main functional issues with storing medical grade items in a domestic refrigerator are:
Un-even temperature distribution and temperature fluctuation.
- The normal operating range of a domestic refrigerator is 0ºC to 10ºC with no fan built within the cabinet; temperatures of your product will vary from shelf to shelf due to lack of air flow.
- Opening the door, even just briefly to retrieve a product or record a temperature puts you at risk of significant temperature fluctuations. These fluctuations can vary in severity depending on the ambient room temperature and relative humidity of the location. Without a fan, your fridge will also take longer to readjust back to its set-point.
- Coils on full-size refrigerators are typically located behind the back cabinet wall; under counter/ bar style fridges typically have a freezer box… Having vaccines or products sitting too close to either of these locations could cause your products to freeze, resulting in the destruction of your temperature sensitive items.
What happens when you store vaccines in a Domestic Refrigerator?
- The ideal temperature range for vaccines is 2-8C. If the temperature drops to 0C the vaccines can be frozen and this is what causes the most damage. Temperatures above 8C can also destroy the vaccines. This could lead to patients been given vaccines that won't protect them, and/or you have to discard thousands of dollars worth of vaccines.
- It is not recommended to use a cyclic defrost refrigerator as they have wide temperature control and frequently go above the recommended temperature range.
- Most domestic refrigerators are not fan forced and have poor temperature recovery after the door has been opened.
- Most domestic style refrigerators are susceptible to the ambient temperature causing higher than ideal temperature control.
Purpose built vaccine refrigerators offer many advantages including:
- Temperatures are maintained in the 2C to 8C range. This minimizes the risk of vaccines being stored outside of the recommended temperature range and becoming impotent.
- Vaccine refrigerators have good temperature recovery after a door has been opened due to being fan forced and using higher quality insulation and double or triple glazed doors.
- There is more usable space for storing vaccines as there are no drawers or door storage compartments.
- Other temperature sensitive medical products such as pharmaceuticals may be stored in a vaccine refrigerator.
- Our vaccine/pharmacy fridges all have high and low-temperature logging standard on the digital controller.
- The vaccine refrigerator will alarm when the temperature exceeds the minimum or maximum allowed.
- A vaccine refrigerator will maintain the 2C to 8C temperature range during a defrost.
- All our vaccine refrigerators have a lockable door or doors.
- Our vaccine and pharmacy refrigerators have the option of glass door or solid door.
- The option of a Low-Temperature Protective Cutout (LTPC) in the event of a failure which will act as an additional safety to prevent freezing of drugs or vaccines.
- The Pharmacy Guild requires accredited pharmacists to have a purpose-built vaccine refrigerator. All pharmacy/vaccine refrigerators sold by OzCoolers meet their Quality Care Pharmacy Program.
You should be aware that there are dangers associated with storing Vaccines in a Domestic Refrigerator including:
- Altered Temperature Ratings
Vaccines require an ideal temperature range of 2C to 8C, and vaccine refrigerators are designed to maintain that temperature rating.
- Poor Temperature Recovery
Vaccine refrigerators are designed with high-quality insulation. They are fan forced and have triple glazed doors, which enhances temperature recovery when the door is opened.
- Alarm Controls
Vaccine refrigerators have an alarm control that goes up in case the temperature readings go above or below the recommended. Using these refrigerators helps you have full control of the vaccine temperatures.
Purpose-built vaccine refrigerators are built with no need for stacking drawers and hence have more space for storing vaccines. This is unlike domestic refrigerators, which require drawers and a door with ice/gel packs
All vaccine refrigerators are lockable which ensure maximum safety of the items stored.
- Extended Use
Vaccine refrigerators can also be used to store other pharmaceutical products and sensitive medical products.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the use of purpose of built vaccine refrigerators for the right storage of vaccines. Failure to adhere to these instructions leads to the destruction of the vaccines rendering them impotent, and hence useless. Quality maintenance of vaccines is a shared responsibility of all handlers; from their production up to the time of their use.
Hopefully, that clears up why it’s essential to use equipment designed for the job. While a domestic refrigerator can get cold it doesn’t do it accurately or consistently. When your business and clients rely on the availability of temperature sensitive products there should be no doubt in your mind why it’s critical to use the purpose-built equipment.