Vaccines save up to three million lives annually, yet more than $20 million in pediatric vaccines alone are wasted each year due to inadequate vaccine refrigeration, according to the U.S. Federal Vaccines for Children Program. Proper storage is pertinent to immunization effectiveness, and physicians must practice vigilant care when handling and dispensing vaccines.
National vaccine storage regulations are stringent, and for good reason, as proper storage is directly correlated to vaccine effectiveness. Vaccines exposed to temperatures outside the recommended ranges have reduced potency and protection. Improperly stored vaccines could lead to a situation in which patients believe they are protected post-vaccination, but in reality are not. An error could lead to a decrease of patient confidence in the physician, practice, and health system.
Best practices for vaccine storage:
- Assign a primary vaccine coordinator who maintains and educates staff as to the appropriate storage techniques and equipment.
- Develop a storage and handling plan, which should be updated annually, to manage the day-to-day operations and inventory management
- Establish emergency protocols and take immediate corrective action when an error is identified. Emergency preparations should include procedures to follow to protect vaccines when conditions are compromised, as well as a communication plan to notify appropriate stakeholders.
- Monitor the temperature of your storage units regularly and look into investing in high quality and medical-grade refrigerators and freezers.
- Reference new regulations and best practices via the Center for Disease Control’s “Vaccine Storage & Handling Toolkit” to assist in creating practice-specific protocols.
- Align your organization with a vaccine buying group to assist with inventory management and best practices for vaccine storage.
Errors with vaccine inventory can prove costly. Storage, training, and costs associated with mistakes and revaccinations are significant expenses for practices. Investing in proper storage equipment and following best practices can help practices deliver a meaningful ROI to healthcare providers and patients alike.