Responsible Pharmacist and what you should know about vaccine storage
What is the Cold Chain?
Vaccine Storage and Handling also known as “The Cold Chain” refers to the storage of vaccines between +2° C to +8° C from the time a vaccine is manufactured, to the time it is administered. Proper vaccine storage and handling ensures safe and effective vaccines are delivered to the public.
What is a Cold Chain incident or failure?
A cold chain incident or failure occurs when the vaccine storage refrigerator temperature readings are outside the +2° C to +8° C range. When vaccines are stored at temperatures higher or lower than the required range, vaccines may become unstable and less potent. Administering vaccines that lack potency can result in a poor immune response and lack of protection for the client. Each year in Ontario, thousands of dollars of vaccine are wasted due to cold chain incidents.
What should I do if there is a Power Failure or a Cold Chain incident at my facility?
- Call your local Public Health right away. It is very important to call if temperatures are outside the +2° C to +8° C range.
- Do not use the vaccines. Public Health nurses will assess the stability and potency of each vaccine in the refrigerator. Vaccine stability is determined by the type of vaccine, temperature reading and length of exposure.
Why does PH inspect vaccine storage refrigerators in health care facilities?
PH is mandated by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to inspect facilities that contain publicly funded vaccines.
What are the mandatory requirements for vaccine storage and handling?
Facilities must meet all three requirements in order to be deemed compliant:
- Maintain vaccine storage refrigerator temperature between +2° C to
- Observe and record vaccine storage refrigerator temperatures twice daily.
- Keep Vaccine Storage and Handling Guidelines and materials on site and post a magnet on the refrigerator to indicate that only vaccines are stored there.
Why is it mandatory to check and record vaccine refrigerator temperatures twice a day?
- Early detection of cold chain incidents is a priority, which can only be achieved if vaccine refrigerator temperatures are observed and recorded at least twice a day.
How can I achieve the best possible Vaccine Storage and Handling practices in my facility?
- Order smaller amounts of vaccine more often to decrease vaccine wastage.
- Ensure the vaccine storage refrigerator is the correct size to accommodate the vaccines. In small refrigerators, temperatures may vary considerably between the top and bottom shelves.
- Keep vaccines on the middle shelf. Never store them in the door shelves, bottom drawer or close to the freezer section.
- Train all members of your office in proper vaccine storage and handling.
- Assign one staff (and a back-up person) to monitor the vaccines twice daily.