A number of medical innovations have transformed the field of medicine in the last few centuries, from microscopes to sterilization of surgical equipment to vaccines and germ theory. Vaccines, in particular, have saved many lives from deadly viruses ever since their invention, and today, they can fight back against a wide variety of illnesses. But vaccines are also fragile, so they need to be stored in pharmacy grade refrigerators and pharmaceutical freezers before use. Even a petite benchtop freezer will do the job, or a huge pharmacy grade refrigerator at a busy hospital. Medical grade freezers are no ordinary fridge units, though. What sets them apart, and what are vaccines capable of today?
Vaccines Past and Present
The very concept of vaccines is older than many people may realize. Back in the year 1796, the British scientist Edward Jenner developed what he called the “arm to arm” inoculation method to treat smallpox. To do this, he would extract a tissue sample from the skin blister of a cowpox patient, and inject that into the arm of a second patient. In this way, the second patient’s immune system was trained to recognize and fight off viruses of that nature, and this method proved a success. Vaccines continued to be used and developed since then, and by the 1940s, vaccines had entered mass production for the first time. Many of them were designed to fight off smallpox, tetanus, whooping cough, and diphtheria, common diseases of the time. Now, in the 21st century, vaccines can also protect patients against Polio and measles.
Many lives are saved this way every year. For example, from the years 2000 to 2014, the yearly death toll due to measles dropped from 546,800 down to 114,900, which is a 79% decrease. Also, the World Health Organizations and the Measles and Rubella Initiative believe that ever since the year 2000, the measles vaccination has saved some 17.1 million lives. Speaking more generally, vaccines save 2.5 million lives every year, from a variety of illnesses.
Who needs these vaccines and shots? Everyone does, but babies and children have particular need for them, since their immune systems are still growing. A baby will be taken to the doctor by its parents for routine shots, which are noted in that young patient’s medical records. In centuries past, disease claimed many young lives, but today, vaccines ensure that this is not the case any longer. Meanwhile, the elderly also have need for shots, to update their immune systems and protect them from the spread of disease in crowded retirement homes. A senior citizen’s immune system is worn out by age, but vaccines can help keep them safe. Even middle aged adults can and should get their shots during flu season, to protect themselves and their community. Many medical sites may host free flu shot drives.
Storage Methods for Vaccines
It is clear that vaccines can save many lives, but these vaccines need some care of their own before they are used. Vaccines are sensitive to temperature, and a hospital’s staff need pharmacy grade refrigerators or vaccine freezers to contain them. Commercial coolers and freezer units will not suffice, since they are designed to store ordinary food and drinks and have too much temperature variance when their doors are opened. By contrast, pharmacy grade refrigerators are designed to have a more stable internal temperature, and they may store entire racks of vaccines at once. Some are larger than others, though.
The CDC has released guidelines for proper vaccine storage temperatures. Frozen vaccines require a temperature ranging from -58 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, or -50 to -15 degrees Celsius. Other vaccines can be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 5 degrees Celsius.
Who is buying these pharmacy grade refrigerators? Hospital and research lab staff will need them, and they can look online to find catalogs featuring wholesale models of all shapes and sizes. Of course, the buyers should be sure to get one of the proper size; a large hospital may need several oversized vaccine storage refrigerators. A small research lab or urgent care clinic’s staff will look for smaller models instead, such as lightweight benchtop models, or even an under-the-counter freezer, like a dishwasher. Those vaccine freezer units won’t even take up any floor space.