COVID19 Vaccine Storage: the Need for Low-Temperature Freezers

COVID19 vaccines are delicate and highly sensitive to temperature. If there is a slight variation in the vaccines’ storage temperature, they can get damaged to become unfit for administration to people.

The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has published its recommendations for handling COVID19 vaccines effectively. The body has recommended storage, temperature monitoring, inventory management, transport, and emergency storage handling.

COVID19 Vaccines and Cold Chain

During transportation, the vaccines need to be moved along a cold chain to keep the vaccines in the prescribed temperature environment.

The CDC has described what a cold chain is. It says the cold chain starts with the cold storage unit at the manufacturing plant, and extends to the delivery of the vaccine at the healthcare facility, and ends with vaccine administration to the patient.

So, you can regard the cold chain as the channel that starts at the dispatch point in the manufacturing facility and ends at the point where healthcare staff takes out the vaccine to administer to people.

Because of the possible temperature variations along the cold chain, some modifications to the vaccines have already been made by manufacturers. For example, Moderna’s vaccines required a storage temperature of -70 degrees C during clinical trials, but the manufacturer has incorporated some modifications to the vaccine to allow shippers to transport the vaccine at -20 degrees C.

Cold Storage Units for COVID19 Vaccines

To maintain the prescribed storage temperature for the COVID19 vaccines, three types of freezers–scientific, low temperature and ultra-low temperature–can be used.

Scientific laboratory and pharmacy freezers can provide a temperature range of -10 to -25 degrees C. Low-temperature freezers can provide temperatures between – 25 to -40 degrees C.

An ultra-low temperature freezer can bring down temperatures -86 degrees C.

Laboratory owners need to adhere to the CDC’s recommendations for storing the vaccines. When you purchase a cold storage unit for storing the vaccines, ensure that it has storage temperature monitoring and an alarming system. These systems are essential as they send out alert signals when temperature excursions occur. Bear in mind that temperature excursions can damage the stored vaccines.

The alert signals can enable your staff to take corrective action immediately.

The CDC also recommends the usage of continuous digital data recording systems to record the freezer temperature. But it is a good idea to manually record the temperature at the beginning and end of the day. You can assign personnel to perform the task, which also helps to monitor your vaccine stock.

How to Plan Your COVID19 Vaccine Inventory?

Medical facility owners have to plan their COVID19 vaccine inventory to provide uninterrupted services to people. An adequate vaccine stock will improve the efficiency of a laboratory.

You can use an ultra-low temperature freezer to store the vaccines. The freezers come in sizes ranging from countertop to upright units, also including under-counter units.

Your experience can help calculate your vaccine storage inventory. However, you can also follow the CDC’s guidelines in the context.

The CDC suggests a general practice to calculate your vaccine inventory requirement. According to it, keep a 60-day supply on hand and order your replacement stock on a 30-day cycle.

The CDC formula will also help you in selecting the capacity of the vaccine refrigeration equipment you need.

But, do not fall behind in keeping an eye on the expiration dates of your vaccines. Train your staff to use the vaccines that are with nearer expiration dates.

Select a freezer with enough room to store your vaccine stock without overcrowding, preventing air from circulating freely inside the unit. When there is any obstruction to the internal airflow, it might raise the temperature slightly, which can be detrimental to your vaccine stock.

You can have the largest inventory these days due to the ongoing COVID19 vaccination program.

Keep your vaccines in their original packaging, and store the vaccines with early expiration dates toward the front to enable your staff to use them first.

Avoid overcrowding to maintain the proper temperature, but replace the removed stock with freezer packs. Do not keep vaccines touching the interior walls of your freezer. Allow two to three inches between the vaccines and the side and back walls of the freezer.

If you are purchasing a new freezer, select one without on-door storage as you should not keep the vaccines on the door. Doing this will expose the vaccines while opening the door to the outside temperature, which will damage them.

If your existing freezer has door shelves, stock the shelves with water bottles or freezer packs for the obvious reason.

Storage Unit Placement

Where you should place your freezer containing COVID19 vaccines is an important point to consider as it has relevance.

According to the CDC, place the freezer at a place where there is good air circulation around the outside of the storage unit. A well-ventilated room is an ideal place to place the unit.

Ensure that you leave a space between the unit, ceiling, and wall and do not block the motor compartment’s cover.

Also, make sure that the door opens and closes smoothly and fits squarely against the unit’s body. If the door does not fit properly, it will risk maintaining the appropriate internal temperature.

Before you use the freezer for vaccine storage, check the minimum and maximum temperatures within a workday for at least a week. Use the freezer for storage only when you find that it can maintain the recommended range temperature.

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