Every year, healthcare providers dispose of millions of dollars of stored vaccines when those vaccines become too warm or too cold.
However, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD—with funding assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—recently completed the first of a series of tests to find out the best practices for properly storing and monitoring refrigerated vaccines.
These initial findings will be included in a CDC training video and report scheduled for July. To ensure they are effective, most vaccines must be kept between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius—from the time they are manufactured until they are administered, the researchers said.
In the first study phase, NIST researchers compared standard sized refrigerators without freezers against smaller, dormitory style refrigerators. They used a variety of conditions, storage practices, and use scenarios—including leaving the refrigerator door ajar for various periods, power loss, and raising the ambient temperature of the room.
The NIST Thermometry group found that standard sized, freezerless refrigerators always performed better than the smaller, dormitory-type refrigerators by every measure. But, the study also identified several good practices for vaccine storage:
According to a NIST study, vaccines that have not been removed from their packaging—usually a cardboard box—retain their temperatures longer than those that have been unpacked and placed in trays. The standard sized refrigerators' ability to keep proper temperature was unaffected by how much vaccine the researchers stored in the refrigerator—a characteristic usually not shared by the dormitory style refrigerators.