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While the 2018-19 flu season appears to be mild (so far), compared to last year’s epidemic that killed 80,000 Americans, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and doctors are urging people to get their flu vaccines if they haven’t already done so. Health officials recently announced that flu activity is increasing rapidly since the holiday season and that the flu shot is more effective against this season’s strain.
As the flu season progresses, it’s important to remember the consequences of improper vaccine storage. Failure to correctly store vaccines can put patient safety at risk and diminish the overall quality of care. Vaccines can lose their effectiveness if they become too hot or too cold at any point during storage and distribution. And because vaccines are naturally biodegradable, storage outside of the recommended temperature range can cause them to lose potency, which is an irreversible effect.
This is why it’s so important for patients to pay attention to where and how a flu shot is administered. The manner in which a healthcare facility is storing a vaccine can impact its quality and the likelihood of a patient catching the flu virus. Patients should look around to see where the vaccine is coming from. If it looks like a dorm fridge, without any sort of automated temperature monitoring program, patients are well within their rights to ask where the vaccine is stored and how the temperature is tracked and monitored. Just about any doctor’s office, clinic or local pharmacy can offer the flu vaccine, but not all facilities are storing vaccines properly.
If you’re a healthcare provider thinking “of course we don’t store our vaccines in a dorm fridge,” you might be surprised to learn that even some medical grade refrigerators can fail to maintain the tight temperature range recommended by the CDC: 2-8 °C. This is due to:
• Ongoing temperature fluctuations: Compressor-based refrigerators oscillate as much as 5°C, which can damage or destroy the effectiveness and potency of vaccines. Plus, frequent door openings increase fluctuations and cause the cabinet temperature to rise above the recommended range.
• Inadvertent freezing: The most prevalent danger to vaccines stored in a compressor-based refrigerator, freezing destroys active ingredients and puts patient safety at risk.
• Poor uniformity: Are you still blocking the top and bottom shelves with water bottles per the CDC guidelines? Not only are you limiting the overall storage capacity of your refrigerator, but this approach also doesn’t guarantee that the storage areas you are using are maintaining safe and even temperatures.
Luckily, there’s a better way to store your flu vaccines. Phononic solid-state medical grade refrigerators deliver superior temperature uniformity, enable constant monitoring and automatically adjust in real time to maintain a tight temperature range of only 0.5°C. If you want to learn more about medical-grade, solid-state refrigeration for stress-free protection of your vaccines, connect with our healthcare team.