Why Do Vaccines Need to Be Refrigerated?

Vaccines must always be stored at the correct temperature to ensure they remain effective when they are used.

Vaccines must be able to affect the immune system, but when they are too hot or too cold their immunogenicity is negatively impacted, meaning they are less effective. In most cases, if they are not stored at the correct temperature they become ruined and therefore unsafe to use.

 As soon as vaccines are produced, they must be kept at the correct temperature right up until the moment they are used. This is why delivering vaccines in some parts of the world, especially in developing countries, can be such a challenge.

Most vaccines have to be kept in very strict temperature ranges, usually from 2°C to 8°C.

Domestic refrigerators cannot sustain this temperature regulation internally, as the temperature is generally uneven from top to bottom and this is why specialist medical fridges are required.

What Happens When Vaccines Are Not Stored Correctly?

Back in 2010, The Telegraph reported that as many as 40 per cent of vaccines were not being stored correctly in the UK.

 During an audit in Nottinghamshire County Primary Care Trust, 40 per cent of vaccines were stored outside the correct temperature range, leading 500 patients to be recalled from two GP practices. It found that: 

– Vaccines were not being stored immediately

– Fridge doors were being left open

– Fridges were being turned off

– Vaccines were being stored alongside food and drink

While there was no evidence of harm to patients, the risk of harm was there according to the National Patient Safety Agency.

Which Vaccines Need to Be Refrigerated?

According to Vaxopedia, there are many key vaccines that need to be refrigerated. 

These include:

– Influenza (flu)

– RotaTeq and Rotarix (Rotavirus)

– Hepatitis A and B

– IPV (polio)

– Gardasil9 (any HPV vaccine)

– Meningococcal vaccines including Menactra, Menveo, Bexsera and Trunembra

– MMR vaccines

– Pneumococcal vaccines like Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax

How Should Vaccines Be Stored?

Vaccines which require refrigeration should never be stored in a standard fridge. Standard fridges are designed for storing food and drink in the home and are not fitted with the locks and temperature controls required for medical use.

Remember that vaccines need to be stored within a very specific temperature range. Standard fridges simply cannot provide this level of accuracy, risking the effectiveness of the vaccines and the wellbeing of those to whom they are administered.

Key Features of Medical Fridges

Medical fridges provide a number of features that make them more suitable than standard fridges for storing vaccinations.

Accurate temperature control is the main reason to use a dedicated medical fridge. When stored correctly, vaccines in a medical fridge are constantly kept in the correct temperature range. Most medical fridges will have accurate temperature control settings and will measure the temperature of the vaccines themselves, as well as the ambient temperature.  

Medical fridges also come with:

– Alarm systems to alert users when the door is left open or when the temperature is not at the correct level 

– Locks to prevent the theft of expensive vaccines

– Some are also eco-friendly to help practices use less power and enjoy lower energy bills

Always Store Vaccines in a Medical Fridge

If your practice needs to store vaccines, always ensure they are kept in a dedicated medical fridge. Using anything else is simply too risky – it could end up costing your practice a considerable amount of money if the vaccines need to be replaced.

Always look for a medical fridge that provides accurate temperature control and other useful features to keep your vaccines safe and secure. Speak to your local advisor