A Guide to: The Cold Chain System

The cold-chain system is the process by which vaccines and medicines are kept within a specific temperature range from the moment of manufacture to the point of administration.

The cold-chain ensures that vaccines and medicines do not become damaged or spoiled because of temperature fluctuations.

Fluctuations in the cold-chain can occur at any point during a vaccines journey, from the time spent in transit from the factory where the vaccines and medicines are produced, and whilst in the healthcare practice where they will be stored before being given to patients.

Below, we explain how the cold-chain system works, the temperature range between which vaccines must be transported and stored and how you can ensure the cold-chain is not broken to ensure the optimal administration of all vaccines and medications.

What is the Cold-Chain Temperature Range?

The cold-chain temperature range is +2oto +8oand this must be maintained at all times to ensure vaccines and medicines do not become damaged or spoiled.

To maintain this temperature whilst in transit, medicines are stored and transported in dedicated portable vaccine carriers. When the medication reaches its healthcare facility, it is immediately transferred into a medical fridge to maintain this optimal temperature.

After this transfer, medications and vaccines will stay in a designated medical refrigerator until the point of administration to a patient. 

The cold-chain temperature range not only applies to medications for the healthcare sector, but also for medications used by veterinary practitioners, dental surgeries, and any serums used in cosmetic clinics too.

Why is a Medical Fridge the Key to Ensuring the Cold-Chain isn’t Broken?

Specialist medical fridges and freezers are required to ensure the cold-chain system is not broken because standard domestic fridges are simply not capable of maintaining such accurate temperatures.

Medical fridges also come equipped with specialist features such as alarms that sound if the temperature falls outside of the cold-chain range, and locks to prevent unauthorised access.

When choosing CoolMed medical fridges, healthcare practitioners have the choice between solid and glass door medical fridges – the latter allowing healthcare professionals to see the contents of a medical fridge without needing to open the door and potentially compromise the fridges internal temperature.

Medical fridges also are available in a range of sizes from small, medium to large  which ensures that the different requirements of healthcare practices are met.

Standard domestic fridges simply do not offer these features and, most importantly, they are not able to provide the accurate temperature range required to maintain the cold-chain.

How Should a Medical Fridge be Used to Correctly Maintain the Cold-Chain System?

While a dedicated medical fridge is vital when it comes to maintaining the cold-chain, it is also important that it is used correctly.

It is essential that all practitioners store their vaccines and medicines correctly. All vials should be kept 1cm apart and away from the back or side of the medical fridge as this can lead to freezing. Medical fridges should never be stocked in excess of 75% as this will effect the ventilation of the fridge and can impact the individual temperature of each medication, vaccine or serum. 

Check out our article on how to correctly stock a medical fridge for more information. 

All medical units must be regularly cleaned and maintained to minimise any cross contamination. We recommend heavily used surfaces such as handles are cleaned down daily and any interior surfaces are fully cleaned fortnightly or monthly.

Annual maintenance is also essential to ensure the medical fridge is working optimally and to help prevent any unexpected breakdowns.

Why is Temperature Monitoring Critical to Maintaining the Cold-Chain?

Above all else, regularly monitoring the temperature of the medical fridge is critical to ensuring the cold-chain system remains stable and is never broken.

The thermometers inside a medical fridge record the temperature in real-time, providing a more accurate representation of the fridge’s internal temperature. However, the medical fridge’s temperature must also be checked and logged by a dedicated member of the team at least twice a day, usually in the morning and at the end of the day.

This helps to identify if the cold chain has been broken at any point, and allows the practitioner to react in the best way possible to prevent the vaccines inside from becoming damaged or spoiled.

As a safety precaution anyway, medical fridges are fitted with alarms that sound in the event the cold-chain is broken, but if this happens during the night it can go unnoticed.

Contact Us

If you’d like more information on our medical fridges, or would like to speak to us about how our fridges can ensure your medications remains within the cold-chain conditions, please call us on 0161 772 5666 or email us at sales@coolmed.co.uk.