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CDC's Tips for Temperature Monitoring


June 2016 : Temperature Monitoring - Vol. 13 No. 6 - Page #2

The CDC’s Vaccine Storage & Handling Tool Kit is an excellent resource for planning appropriate medication storage. The following tips are drawn from this document, which is available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/admin/storage/toolkit/storage-handling-toolkit.pdf.

Avoid Device Drift

All temperature-monitoring devices experience drift over time that can affect accuracy. When traceability and calibration testing is required, CDC advocates one of the following approaches:

  • Have the accuracy of the temperature-monitoring device tested. Calibration testing should be performed every 1 to 2 years from the last testing date or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Providers who receive Vaccines for Children (VFC) vaccines or other vaccines purchased with public funds should consult their state immunization program regarding the required time frame for calibration testing (available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/awardee-imz-websites.html.)
  • Purchase a new temperature-monitoring device with a Certificate of Traceability and Calibration Testing (Report of Calibration)
  • Contact the state immunization program for resources on verifying the accuracy of the temperature-monitoring device

If calibration testing indicates that the temperature-monitoring device is no longer accurate within +/- 1°F (+/- 0.5°C), then it must be replaced. Making adjustments to correct the accuracy of devices is not recommended.

When a temperature-monitoring device is dropped or otherwise damaged, CDC recommends that, at a minimum, the device be checked for accuracy against a known calibrated device, as mishandling can affect accuracy. If there is any doubt as to the device’s accuracy, have testing performed or purchase a new device.

Continuous Monitoring Devices

CDC recommends using a continuous monitoring device for each storage unit, as these devices provide information detailing the length of time a unit has operated outside of the recommended vaccine storage temperature and identifies when the excursion occurred. Based on studies conducted by NIST, CDC recommends devices with the follow characteristics:

  • Digital display on the outside of the storage unit to allow reading temperatures without opening the unit door
  • Detachable probe in a bottle filled with a thermal buffer, such as glycol, which closely reflects vaccine temperatures. Vaccine temperatures have been found to be more stable than air temperature, which fluctuates during defrost cycles and when opening and closing the unit door
  • Alarm to alert for out-of-range temperatures
  • Low battery indicator
  • Continuous monitoring and recording capabilities to track and record temperatures over time
  • Display of current, minimum, and maximum temperatures, which indicate the coldest and warmest temperatures recorded since the device was reset

Backup Devices

It is prudent to have a backup temperature-monitoring device for use in the event that the primary device is damaged or must be sent to a laboratory for calibration testing. The backup device should have the same setup as the primary device (ie, probe in buffer, such as glycol). In addition, it should have a calibration-testing schedule that is different from the primary device so that it is available when the primary is sent for testing.

Some state immunization programs require VFC providers to have a backup thermometer. Contact the state immunization program for specific requirements.


Jennifer Karpinski is a senior editor at Pharmacy Purchasing & Products magazine, and can be reached at jkarpinski@ridgewoodmedia.com.

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