What Steps Are Involved in Storing Vaccines in a Pharmacy?
01.05.2022 WELLNESS 0.0 0

storage of vaccines

Healthcare is one of those industries where no compromises are allowed regarding customers’ — or patients’ — safety. As a pharmacist or a pharmacy owner, you bear a certain level of responsibility and must do everything in your power to ensure that you follow all protocols to a T.

A topic that is surrounded by a lot of conversation today is certainly vaccination. Considering that pharmacists are in a position to administer vaccines — and have long been so before the pandemic arrived, giving out protection against diseases like hepatitis A and B, polio, shingles, chickenpox, and others — the possibility of expanding your pharmacy’s services and offering vaccination might very well be on your mind.

The implementation of these services requires a lot of forethought, though. The appropriate handling and storage of vaccines is a crucial matter: improper handling can and will render vaccines less effective and thus unusable. Not only can this put your business in a difficult situation, but improper storing and handling can also lead to medical oversight. So, if you are planning on stocking your pharmacy with vaccines, here’s what you need to know and take care of beforehand.

The cold chain

The first critical thing you must know about vaccine handling protocol is the concept of the cold chain. This refers to the fact that vaccines must be stored appropriately, at the right temperature, through the whole supply chain process: from the moment they are manufactured all the way to the moment they are administered. This means special transportation needs, and everyone who is involved in the chain is responsible for never breaking it. 

Learn the details

Every vaccine has its own unique properties and storage temperature requirements. Vaccines generally must not be exposed to high temperatures and are light-sensitive. Most vaccines, like hepatitis A and B, MenB, HPV, etc. are stored refrigerated, from 2-8°C (35-45°F). These must not be frozen or they lose their effectiveness. Some vaccines may be frozen without adverse effects. Again, other vaccines need to be stored frozen: MMR (used against measles, mumps, and rubella) needs to be kept at temperatures ranging from -50°C to 8°C (-58°F to 46°F). Needless to say, diluents may also have their special requirements. At the end of the day, you must do your research in order to decide whether you can satisfy these requirements and set up your premises accordingly.

Train your staff

Mistakes regarding vaccine storage and handling most often come down to human error. Therefore, before you introduce vaccines to your pharmacy’s offer, training your staff appropriately about the best practices is paramount. You should conduct training before your vaccines arrive even if all your staff is familiar with the practices, as refreshing their knowledge will never hurt. Protocols should also be displayed near the vaccine storage.

Think ahead

The next step in introducing vaccines to your pharmacy is making all the accommodations well in advance. It is recommended that the appropriate steps are taken and the necessary equipment is obtained, installed, and in order before even placing a vaccine order. You must also organize everything in a way that allows you or your staff to receive delivery personally and unpack and store vaccines in their designated space immediately since you must never leave the delivery unattended. 

Take care of the equipment 

Vaccines are best stored in designated, pharmacy-grade refrigerators or freezer units. Regular refrigerators often don’t satisfy the requirements, especially in terms of temperature stability. So, if you are serious about introducing vaccines to your pharmacy, you must look for specialized refrigerators that comply with all the standards and are sold by reputable manufacturers like Thermoline Scientific Equipment. You should consider the unit size well and make sure it will satisfy your needs. Overstocking refrigerators can hinder air circulation and compromise the storage quality so you can find yourself in a difficult situation if your vaccine order is larger than you can actually store. 

Besides a refrigerator, you must also equip yourself with a temperature monitoring device. You will need to continuously monitor the temperatures to make sure they are stable at all times.

Finally, vaccine storage might create special power needs in your pharmacy. Since you cannot risk the refrigerator getting turned off, you might need to take certain precautions so that the unit cannot be accidentally unplugged.

Finally, even after setting up your new equipment, allow some time to pass before putting it to use. New refrigerators and freezers often need a certain length of time to stabilize their temperatures. This can take even up to a week. All the while, you will be monitoring the temperatures and once you see they are consistent, the units are ready to be used.

Storing considerations

Finally, it’s useful to arm yourself with useful tips concerning vaccine storage. Since vaccines must be used before their expiry dates, be especially vigilant when receiving orders and check expiry dates immediately. In the refrigerators, store those closer to their expiry date at the front so they are used up as soon as possible. Remind staff to always check the dates before administering vaccines. 

Don’t store other things in the same refrigerators so that the units are not opened frequently, disturbing the temperature. Minimize the chance of human error by placing similar-looking or sounding vaccines far away from each other. It’s also useful to store vaccines together with their diluents, if possible.

If you are to introduce vaccines to your pharmacy, you must follow the recommended steps for maximum safety. Make sure you check off all the requirements before placing an order.


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TAGS:Vaccines, healthcare

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