The cold chain is the system that ensures vaccines and medicines do not become damaged or spoiled because of temperature fluctuations
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 they are administered.
This includes the time spent in transit from the factory where the vaccines and medicines are produced to 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 chain is not broken.
Cold-chain temperature range:
The cold chain temperature range is +2Oc to +8Oc and this must be maintained at all times to ensure vaccines and medicines do not become damaged or spoiled.
To maintain this temperature while in transit, medicines are stored and moved in refrigerated boxes. When they are being stored at a healthcare facility, they are placed in dedicated medical fridges.
They then stay in the medical refrigerator right up until the point they are administered to the patient. The same applies to vaccines and medicines used by veterinary practitioners.
Why a medical fridge is key to ensuring the cold chain is not broken:
Specialist medical fridges are required to ensure the cold chain system is not broken. Why? 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 required range and locks to prevent unauthorised access.
What’s more, healthcare practitioners can choose between solid door and glass door medical fridges – the latter allowing them to see inside without opening the door and impacting the temperature.
Medical fridges are available in a range of sizes – small, medium and large – to meet the different requirements of different healthcare practices.
Standard domestic fridges do not offer these features and, most importantly, they are not able to provide the accurate temperature range require to maintain the cold chain.
How to correctly use your medical fridge to 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.
First up, practitioners must store vaccines and medicines correctly.
Vials should be 1cm apart and its it important to make sure they do not touch the back or side of the fridge as this can lead to freezing. Medical fridges should never be more than 75 percent full.
Units must be regularly cleaned and maintained – we recommend heavily used surfaces such as handles are wipe down daily – with the inside fully cleaned fortnightly or monthly.
Annual maintenance is also a must to ensure the medical fridge is working as it should do and to help prevent any unexpected breakdowns our outages.
Temperature monitoring is critical to the cold chain:
Above all else, regularly monitoring the temperature of the medical fridge is critical to ensuring the cold chain system is not broken.
The thermometers inside the fridge record the temperature in real-time, but a dedicated member of the team must log the readings at least twice a day – in the morning and at the end of the day.
This identifies if the cold chain has been broken at any point, allowing the practitioner to react in the best way possible to prevent the vaccines inside from becoming damaged.
Of course, 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.
We hope this post has explained the cold chain system, but if you do have any questions please contact a member of the CoolMed team here.