Vaccine Storage and Handling

Courtesy of AAEP

Proper storage and handling of vaccines is critical to their efficacy and safety.  Per manufacturers’ instructions, aseptic technique is to be followed when handling and administering vaccines. Vaccine administration sites (skin / haircoat, mucosa) are to be clean. Each animal should be vaccinated with separate new needles for each vaccine product to avoid cross contamination of products and possible adverse reactions and to reduce the possibility of spreading blood-borne pathogens.

Care must be taken to assure that vaccines are administered via the intended route. Intranasal vaccines should NEVER be given via the intramuscular route.

Storage and handling instructions may be product specific. It is important to read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for each product regarding: storage temperature, exposure to light during storage, and shaking of the product to assure uniform vaccine suspension.

Maintaining vaccines at the appropriate temperature from transport from manufacturer/supplier to patient administration is a very important aspect of proper immunization delivery programs. Lack of adherence to proper temperature maintenance can result in lack of efficacy, undue vaccine failures, and an increased rate of adverse reactions post vaccination.

The following recommendations can help improve vaccine management practices:

  • Have a designated individual responsible for handling and storage of vaccines.
  • Maintain a vaccine inventory log, documenting: Vaccine name, manufacturer, lot number and expiration date, date and number of doses received; and arrival condition of vaccine.
  • Store vaccines in a refrigerator with a separate freezer compartment.
  • Keep a working thermometer in the refrigerator; monitor the temperature twice daily. Maintenance of a log is advisable, particularly if multiple people share responsibility for temperature monitoring.
  • Store vaccines in the middle of the refrigerator, NOT in the door or against the back of the refrigerator.
  • Organize vaccines according to expiration date, avoiding wastage by ensuring that products with earlier expiration dates are used before products with later dates.
  • In the event of refrigerator failure, promptly remove vaccines to an adequately refrigerated container.
  • In the event of a power failure, keep the refrigerator door closed until power is restored or a suitable location for the vaccine has been identified. Refrigeration can be maintained in a kitchen-sized refrigerator (20-24 ft3) for 6-9 hours if the doors remain closed. Once power is restored, promptly check refrigerator temperature to determine if vaccines have been exposed to temperatures outside of the recommended range. If power outage is expected to be longer than 6 to 9 hours, remove vaccines to a container that is maintained with ice. Monitor temperature in this container.
  • Ambulatory vehicles should have a thermometer in the refrigeration unit or portable cooler in which vaccines are carried. Temperature should be checked each time the container is opened. (Note: A freezer pack placed in a cooler is not sufficient to maintain vaccines in the proper temperature range throughout the course of a work day.)

Consult the manufacturer if vaccine:

  • Is exposed to temperatures outside of the recommended range
  • Undergoes color change during storage
  • Is exposed to ultraviolet radiation