Healthcare 101: Storing and Handling Practices for Vaccines

Since its introduction to healthcare, vaccination has immensely helped mankind combat numerous diseases. In the earlier centuries, even the most common ailments and infections caused multitudes of deaths. Thankfully, vaccination has successfully become a basic necessity for almost every medical practice.

You may already be aware of some facts regarding vaccines, but did you know that storing and handling vaccines actually entail a long and systematic process? Below, we’ll discuss briefly how vaccines are stored and disposed of in medical establishments.

Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided a comprehensive guide called “Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit,” with the fifth chapter entitled “Storage and Handling.” Judging from the title, the said chapter heavily focused on storage and handling regulations for vaccines.

All medical facilities are instructed to create detailed protocols for both routine and emergency storage and handling of vaccines, and these must be updated every year. The plans include a set of policies and procedures that should be made available in writing so all the members of the personnel can have easy access and refer to them as necessary.

Some fundamental guidelines for daily operations include the ordering and receiving of vaccine deliveries, as well as their storing and handling. Furthermore, other important tasks are inventory management and incident response when the vaccines are compromised.

Emergency Vaccine Retrieval and Storage Plan

An emergency plan for vaccine retrieval and storage entails determining a back-up storage location for the vaccines if the need to transfer them arises. This may sound simple, but a lot of factors are at play in identifying a suitable location.

For example, it must be considered if the site houses proper storage units, has a built-in temperature monitoring mechanism, and a generator for maintaining power during outages.

There must also be a sufficient supply of materials for packing, as well as portable vaccine fridges and freezers, or containers that have been recognised as qualified for vaccine storage. These items should be available on hand to immediately accommodate the entire vaccine storage of a medical facility. Moreover, a vehicle of adequate size and with temperature control and refrigeration system should be accessible for transporting the vaccines.

Qualified Storage Units for Vaccines

A dormitory-style or bar-style refrigerator is never deemed suitable for storing vaccines. According to the Immunization Action Coalition, these commercial and residential units can freeze vaccines and affect their efficacy. Moreover, vaccine fridges have specialised features to cater to the temperature requirements of certain types of vaccines. Regular fridges don’t perform these functions, which is why it’s prohibited to use them as vaccine storage.

Disposal of Compromised Vaccines

When vaccines remain unused for long, they can be returned under specific conditions. It’s best to contact the vaccine supplier or manufacturer and inquire about the particular policies they have concerning the circumstances that allow vaccines to be returnable.

Immunity Duration

hand of a doctor injecting a vaccine

According to the Immunisation Advisory Centre in Auckland, New Zealand, there’s no 100%-effective vaccine that is fully guaranteed to have a life-long effect. A percentage of individuals may stay unprotected even after vaccination while the protection in others may wane in the long term. It’s also vital to consider aspects like vaccine immunogenicity and efficacy. Some people are also physically unable to receive vaccination due to inherent conditions like immune suppression.

Staff members and personnel in a medical facility that houses vaccines receive special training for administering, storing, handling and disposing of vaccines. Moreover, every facility is guided by regulatory bodies that provide them with guidance and supervision to ensure that the vaccines that reach the public are in good condition.

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