Is Your Vaccine Storage Safe?

The Problem:

With recent changes to the Vaccine Storage & Handling guidelines, the CDC has exhibited their concern with clinics improperly storing vaccines. Mishandling vaccines can result in the loss of potency making them ineffective giving the end user a false impression that they were protected from a certain virus. If a person is given an ineffectual vaccine, the user is still vulnerable to the virus (especially children) which can be very harmful and potentially fatal.

The Cause:

As any medical professional knows, vaccines are not only expensive, but extremely fragile. They require strict temperature control and some should be protected from light at all times prior to use. As previously stated, potency of vaccines can be adversely affected if not stored in the recommended temperature ranges. This can end up costing you thousands of dollars in wasted vaccines and potentially harm a patient’s health.

The Solution:

The CDC has prepared guidelines for healthcare professionals that, if followed accurately, will ensure proper storage of their vaccines. Within these guidelines are best practices as well as the equipment needed to achieve the ultimate proper storage.

Let’s begin with the Equipment:

First, you must prepare your facility to make sure you have the proper vaccine storage equipment and monitoring devices for when a vaccine shipment arrives. The type of refrigeration unit you are using can make all of the difference in regards to proper storage.

Refrigeration Units:

  • Recommended:
    Varicella-Containing Vaccines (Frozen): Should be stored in stand-alone, pharmaceutical grade freezers with a built-in digital temperature display, alarms, and locking door.
    Inactivated Vaccines (Refrigerated): Should be stored in stand-alone, pharmaceutical grade refrigerators with a built-in digital temperature display, alarms, and locking door.
  • Not Recommended:
    -Household & Commercial and/or combination refrigeration units are not recommended due to their lack of temperature uniformity and random cold spots within the unit
    -Dormitory or Bar-style refrigerators are not allowed for storage of any vaccine under any circumstances.

Temperature Monitoring & Data Logging:

  • Recommended:
    NIST Traceable Thermometers with high/low temperature alarms and minimum/maximum temperature memory.-Remote Temperature Monitors allow you to monitor temperatures even when away from the office or lab, and provide alarming and data storage as needed.

Combining this equipment to store and monitor your vaccine and refrigeration temperatures ensures you have the proper tools for safe storage. The next step is proper receiving, handling and storage of the vaccines.

Listed below are “Best Practices” recommended by the CDC for safe receiving, handling and storage of vaccines by the end user.

  1. When receiving new vaccines at your medical office or lab, unpack and place in refrigeration unit immediately
    1. Place vaccines in trays or uncovered containers and leave 2-3 inches between all vaccines and the refrigeration unit walls. This will allow for proper air flow throughout the unit
    2. Practice FIFO (first in, first out) method: Place vaccines that are set to expire first in the front
    3. Keep vaccines in their original boxes with lids closed in order to prevent light exposure
    4. Separate & label by vaccine type and VFC/Public or Private
  2. Store Vaccines at ideal temperature
    1. Refrigerated Vaccines: 40°F (min. 35°F, max. 46°F)
    2. Frozen Vaccines: -4°F (min. -58°F, max. 5°F)
  3. Checking and Recording temperatures:
    1. If you do not have a data logger, carry out the following these steps first thing in the morning, then again before leaving at night:
                  i.      Check and record the current temperature
                 ii.      Check and record the coldest and warmest the refrigeration unit has been since the last time the thermometer was reset
                iii.      Push the reset button on the thermometer so new minimum and                         maximum temperatures can be recorded
    2. If you have a Data Logger, follow these step:
                  i.      Set your data logger or remote monitoring system to record the                         temperature at least every 8 hours or more
                 ii.      Download the data once a week to your computer
  1. Take action if temperatures are out of range
    1. Contact the state or local health department immediately. If they are private vaccines, call the manufacturer directly.
    2. Give them details especially the total amount of time the refrigerator was out of range.


Vaccine Storage and Handling Do’s & Don’ts


  • Always make sure refrigerator/freezer door is shut.
  • Use water bottles (refrigerator) or ice packs (freezer) to fill unused space which will help maintain consistent temperatures throughout. If water bottles are used, label them “Do Not Drink”
  • Leave 2-3 inches between all vaccines and the refrigeration unit walls.
  • Post “DO NOT UNPLUG” signs on unit and by electrical outlet.


When storing refrigerated vaccines, DO NOT store on top shelf, in doors or on the floor of the unit (colder and sometimes freezing temperatures can be reached in these location)

  • DO NOT use a dormitory style refrigerator/freezer
  • DO NOT use a combo fridge/freezer unit
  • DO NOT put food or beverages inside unit


For more information on our vaccine storage or other clinical products, select a link below:

For more information on proper vaccine storage, view the CDC’s Toolkit for safe storage & handling of vaccines.