The Proper Way to Store Vaccines

A number of recent developments have strengthened the field of medicine, such as the invention of microscopes in the 1600s to allow scientists to examine tiny organisms. Germ theory also plays a major role in fighting infectious diseases, and the same is true of sterilization practices. Another major advance was the development of vaccines, and ever since their invention, vaccines have done a lot of work in preventing the spread of deadly viruses. Infections such as smallpox, tetanus, Polio, and measles have been made rare thanks to vaccines, and it is routine for children to get them. But these vaccines are delicate, and they need proper storage that controls their temperature. To this end, laboratory freezers, vaccine refrigerators, and pharmaceutical freezers are used to store them until needed. A benchtop freezer can be used to save space, while a large hospital may get a sizeable laboratory freezer. What is there to know about vaccines and their storage methods?

Vaccines Past and Present

The concept of vaccines is actually older than some people might think. All the way back in 1796, a man named Edward Jenner pioneered what he dubbed the “arm to arm” inoculation method against the dreaded smallpox virus. He did this by extracting a tissue sample from a cowpox patient’s skin blister, and transfer this to the skin of a second patient. In this way, the second patient’s immune system was trained to recognize and fight off diseases such as smallpox and cowpox, and this proved a success. Over the years, vaccines were further developed and improved to fight disease, and by the 1940s, they were being mass produced for the first time. Those vaccines were engineered for common viruses of the time, such as Diphtheria, whooping cough, smallpox, and tetanus. By the modern age, viruses such as measles and Polio are also blocked by vaccines, making them a rarity in the 2010s.

Who gets vaccines? Most often, it is children, babies, and the elderly who need them the most. Responsible parents will bring in their young children for safe and routine shots to bolster their developing immune systems, and this contrasts sharply with high infant mortality rates of centuries past. Meanwhile, the elderly may also get vaccinated to update their immune systems, and this can help prevent the spread of disease in a crowded nursing home or in a retirement community. Even middle aged adults may sometimes get updates to their immune system, just to be sure.

Many statistics show how effective vaccines are. Overall, vaccines are estimated to prevent some 2.5 million deaths per year, and the measles vaccine in particular has saved many lives. To make this even more clear, some 548,000 people died from measles in the year 2000, but by 2014, that figure had dropped to 114,900, a 79% decrease. All thanks to the work of vaccines. Similarly, the WHO and Measles and Rubella Initiative have estimated that ever since the year 2000, roughly 17.1 million lives have been saved due to these vaccines. And to keep these vaccines in good shape until use, laboratory freezers and fridges must be used.

Proper Storage Solutions

Vaccines are sensitive to temperature, so until they are used, laboratory freezers and fridges will be on hand to store them safely. The CDC has released some guidelines showing that frozen vaccines should be stored at -58 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and other vaccines need a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Commercial fridges and freezers will not do, since they are designed only for ordinary food and drinks in mind and their temperatures vary too widely when their doors are repeatedly opened. Instead, the staff at a hospital or research lab will look for medical grade laboratory freezers or fridges, and such units can be found with the online catalogs that medical supply wholesalers offer. Some units are bigger than others, and a large lab with many patients may require a higher-end freezer on hand to store many vaccines. Floor space will need to be cleared up for that unit. By contrast, a small and cramped lab’s staff may purchase a benchtop freezer unit that stores a few vaccines while taking up little space. An under-the-counter freezer or fridge model can save even more space in a lab with limited room for supplies.

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