A patient's physical exam usually begins with checking vital signs of pulse, respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature. But when checking your vaccine supply, only one “vital sign” — temperature — must be monitored to assure your vaccines remain viable. Regular monitoring of vaccine storage temperatures is critical to ensuring quality patient care.

The November 2012 issue of Technically Speaking highlighted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Storage & Handling Toolkit(PDF)(PDF), which covers topics including routine storage and handling practices, proper storage and monitoring equipment, and inventory management. The toolkit also includes CDC's recommendation that only stand-alone units, i.e., self-contained units that only refrigerate or only freeze, be used for vaccine storage.

As a companion resource to the toolkit, CDC and the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) have updated the popular vaccine temperature logs:

  • Vaccine Temperature Log for Refrigerator in Fahrenheit(PDF)(PDF) and Celsius(PDF)(PDF) and
  • Vaccine Temperature Log for Freezer in Fahrenheit(PDF)(PDF) and Celsius(PDF)(PDF).

These logs provide a convenient tool for documenting storage unit temperatures a minimum of twice each workday, as recommended by CDC. They also have space to document daily minimum/maximum temperature readings. Twice-a-day monitoring is important even if temperatures are being assessed with a digital system. This proactive approach can prevent inadvertent loss of vaccine and the potential need for revaccination by assuring that temperature excursions are identified quickly so that immediate corrective action can be taken. This physical inspection also provides an opportunity to visually examine the storage unit, reorganize any vaccines that are inadvertently misplaced, and remove any expired vaccines.

In spite of appropriate monitoring, unacceptable vaccine storage events sometimes occur. For these instances, CDC and IAC have developed a new Vaccine Storage Troubleshooting Record(PDF)(PDF). This one-page form leads clinic staff through a series of pertinent questions so they can document both the circumstances of the event and the subsequent actions taken. Most importantly, the form helps users identify ways to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future. The form is available both as a stand-alone document and as part of the vaccine temperature logs.

Be sure to use these updated resources to assist your clinic staff in monitoring storage unit temperatures, a “vital” aspect of ensuring vaccine viability.

More storage and handling resources

For additional resources on vaccine storage and handling, visit the following: