New COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have brought to the public’s attention the importance and challenges of maintaining ultra-low temperatures for vaccines and other pharmaceuticals. Both vaccines have to be kept at very low temperatures and can be shipped and stored in a specialty freezer for up to six months. In addition, specialty freezers containing the Pfizer vaccine can’t be opened more than twice a day and need to be closed within one minute of opening. And once it’s thawed, the vaccine can only be stored in a refrigerator for five days.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses and government facilities in unique ways. Many have to operate under conditions where employees are working off premises. Others have had to limit their on-site staff in order to follow social distancing requirements. Many commercial buildings sit empty, while essential businesses like utility plants must remain operational. It has become more important than ever to monitor these workplaces around the clock to mitigate threats to facilities, equipment and inventory.
If critical vaccines and other pharmaceuticals are stored at an unsafe temperature for too long, they can lose their potency. For patients with chronic illnesses, taking a damaged dosage can be life-threatening. But even common medicines can break down and have harmful effects, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between a compromised product and a safe one. That's why pharmaceutical and vaccine providers must take appropriate measures to ensure all pharmaceutical products are stored at the correct temperature.
Medical tissue samples, critical vaccines, pharmaceutical products and other frozen or refrigerated inventory can be ruined if the exact temperature is not maintained while in storage. Or they can fall out of compliance if their temperature is regulated. In addition, several regulating bodies provide temperature standards, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program, and state and local health departments. Storing cold pharmaceutical products presents additional challenges.
Proper storage of pharmaceuticals from research and development through dispensing is crucial to ensure that the products remain safe and effective. Temperature and humidity can have drastic effects on drugs and their ingredients. If stored at the wrong temperatures for even a short period of time, they can become ineffective, lose potency or even become harmful to patients.
The CDC Vaccines for Children (VFC) program recently made its vaccine storage requirements more stringent. Now all refrigerators must be equipped with continuous temperature monitoring devices that data log high and low temperatures and clearly display the current temperature on the outside of the refrigerator. In addition, vaccine providers must use certified and calibrated monitoring devices. (View full requirements for CDC vaccine temperature monitoring.)
If you are responsible for inventory stored in commercial refrigerators and freezers, temperature monitoring, immediate alarm notification and secure data logging are essential. Whether you are storing food products or pharmaceuticals, these units can contain assets worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. And holding these products at the wrong temperatures can compromise quality and lead to serious consequences like food-borne illnesses or unviable medications.
The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program provides vaccines at no cost to children whose families may not be able to afford them otherwise. Since its implementation in 1994, the program has prevented over 320 million illnesses and saved the lives of over 732,000 children, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Proper storage of these vaccines plays a key role in maintaining quality and protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Recently, the CDC issued new requirements for storing vaccines in medical grade refrigerators or freezers. They now require you to use a..