The value of properly establishing and maintaining medical-grade refrigerated storage devices and their attendant monitoring systems cannot be overstated. The ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored the importance of broad emergency strategies for health systems at all points across the medication use process, and ensuring the viability of vaccines and medications at all times—especially during an emergency—should be an ongoing goal for the pharmacy. Now that vaccines are available and in demand, pharmacy is focused on correctly and safely transporting and storing these and other temperature-sensitive products, while simultaneously monitoring their conditions. As the extreme circumstances of the pandemic have demonstrated, the integrity of medications remains essential.
Logistically, appropriate temperatures for refrigerated products must be maintained from the point of receipt in the health care facility to final storage, so measures should be in place to both refrigerate and monitor products in transport. To assist the pharmacy’s efforts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidance on vaccine storage and handling in its Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit, available online. The incorporation of best practices and recommendations from this kit can help safeguard the vaccine supply and reduce costs associated with wasting products. In addition, the CDC has provided a series of warning labels that pharmacy can print to bolster the overall temperature control process (see the FIGURE).
Keep in mind, vaccines and other medications must not be stored in a dormitory-style or household combined refrigerator/freezer units, as these units have a single exterior door and largely utilize an evaporator plate/cooling coil, which can produce inconsistent temperatures. These devices were not designed to properly store medications. Thus, precise and accurate control and monitoring is essential, as is automated alerting in the event of any temperature excursions. The refrigeration and temperature monitoring vendors listed herein offer a variety of high quality products to ensure safe storage and monitoring of vaccines and other valuable medications, which can provide peace of mind to the pharmacy.