Proper Storage Methods for Vaccines

Many innovations and discoveries in the last few centuries have rapidly advanced the field of medicine, from sterilizing medical equipment to germ theory and the invention of microscopes. Vaccines, for their part, have been instrumental in saving countless lives for over 200 years, and many statistics today show just how effective they are. Some viruses have been declared extinct, or made very rare, thanks to regular shots and inoculations for children and adults alike. Still, these powerful vaccines are delicate, so proper storage in a medical freezer or a pharmaceutical grade refrigerator is a must. These range from huge medical grade freezers for a hospital to a petite benchtop freezer for a small research lab, but the idea is the same. Scientific refrigerators, after all, differ from regular cooling units in a few particular ways.

All About Vaccines

The very concept of vaccines is an old one, and vaccines as we know them were introduced back in the year 1796. A British scientist named Edward Jenner developed what he called the “arm to arm” inoculation method to protect patients from smallpox, and he did this by extracting a tissue sample from a cowpox patient’s skin blister and transferring it to a second patient. In this way, the second patient’s immune system was trained to recognize and fight off such viruses, and this method proved a success. Little by little, vaccines spread and developed, and by the 1940s, vaccines had entered mass production for the first time. Many of those vaccines were geared to fight off common illnesses of the day, such as smallpox, whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. By now, vaccines can also protect patients from Polio and measles, among other contagions.

Who needs these vaccines? Everyone does, but young children in particular have a need for them, since their immune systems are still developing, and need aid from vaccines to fight off deadly contagions. In centuries past, disease killed many babies and children, but this is no longer the case. Responsible parents will bring their children to the doctor on a regular schedule to have safe and effective shots done, and such shots will be logged in the youngster’s medical history. Meanwhile, older adults can get shots to keep their immunity current, and during influenza season, it is common for urgent care centers to host flu shot drives. Also, the elderly need vaccines to bolster their age-worn immune systems, to prevent the spread of infectious disease at crowded retirement homes.

There is no doubt that vaccines save a lot of lives. But what about their storage methods, such as medical freezers?

Medical Freezers and Fridge Units

As mentioned earlier, vaccines are sensitive to temperature, and they may become compromised if they are not stored in medical freezers and vaccine refrigerators. Why not use commercial fridge and freezer units? The problem is that they are designed for regular food and drinks, not delicate medical items, and their internal temperatures are heavily disrupted when their doors are opened. This could compromise the vaccines stored inside. By contrast, medical freezers and fridge units are designed to generate and maintain a certain temperature at all times, even when the fridge doors are opened and closed. Such units also have racks and trays built into them for easy storage of vaccines and even tissue samples, and related medical items.

As for storage temperatures, the CDC has released some guidelines. Frozen vaccines will need a temperature ranging from -58 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, or -50 to -15 degrees Celsius. Other vaccines can be stored at a higher temperature, usually 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 5 degrees Celsius.

The staff at a hospital or a medical research lab, for example, can look online to find any medical freezers or fridge models that suit their needs, and find some models through wholesale catalogs from medical suppliers. Gently used ones can also be found on secondary markets, though buyers are urged to look over the used models in person before buying one. Also, these units vary greatly in size and storage capacity; a large hospital’s staff may acquire a sizable one for a flu drive and clear up floor space, while the staff at a cramped research lab could get a small benchtop model or an under-the-counter freezer.

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