It is very important that vaccines are stored in a proper laboratory fridge. Anyone using the vaccines or the fridges has to be properly trained. They must know how to operate the fridges, and how to keep proper records.
Vaccines are not created equally. Consider, for instance, that the flu vaccine in 2010/2011 would be damaged if it got frozen, whereas those before and after had to be frozen until just before administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidelines on how vaccines should be properly stored. Meanwhile, although states have their own regulations, most will not allow labs to use manual defrost fridges, because their temperature variations are quite significant, potentially damaging the vaccine storage, requiring auto defrost models instead. Meanwhile, the manual defrost models are better for vaccine storage, meaning that most labs and clinics have to have both on site.
Clearly temperature control is one of the most important things of all. The vaccine supplier provides the correct storage temperature, which is usually between 36F and 46F. Meanwhile, freezers should be able to have a constant temperature of no more than 5F. Additionally, they should be equipped with LED screens that display the temperatures and visual and audible alarms should there be a problem with the temperature or the unit.
Some fridges do not have external temperature displays yet and not every lab has the funds to have these replaced. In that case, they should fit them with an ASTM or NIST thermometer instead, which should be in the center of the unit. Operatives should then take two daily readings of the temperature.
How vaccines are placed inside the fridges is important as well. They should be at least 2 inches away from any material inside the fridge, including floor, ceiling, and wall. Furthermore, the fridges should only be used to store vaccines, although it is sometimes allowed to store multiple vaccines in one place. They should also be fitted with glass doors so that the contents can always be monitored, and with magnetic door gaskets and locks to ensure nobody can get to the vaccines unauthorized.
Buying a Vaccine Fridge
Before you purchase your fridge, you need to know exactly where you will put it. The space should be outside of direct sunlight and away from air conditioning or heating ducts. They should also have a separate electrical outlet, on its own circuit if possible. Air has to be able to circulate around the unit as well, and if the fridge is tall or up a height, it should have steps near it so that items can quickly be moved if need be.
It is critical that vaccines are stored the proper way, both to protect the vaccines themselves and to protect the patients about to receive them. It is never suitable to simply use a residential fridge or freezer just because those are more affordable. Vaccines are scientific tools, and they should be stored in scientific equipment that has all the proper controls.