CDC Vaccine Storage and Handling: Tips and Tools

December 2021 - Vol.18 No. 12 - Page #22
Category: Vaccines

Providing safe vaccine storage and handling continues to be of the utmost importance as the COVID-19 vaccination effort carries on. Ensuring the protection of the product, patient, and the provider requires attention to detail at all stages of the vaccine cold chain. Using the following tools can help improve your vaccine storage and handling practices in both safety and efficiency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides comprehensive information about vaccine storage and handling in its Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit, which includes the COVID-19 vaccine storage and handling information addendum that is continually updated as new information becomes available. The information provided herein is from the CDC as of November 18th, 2021. As the toolkit is continually updated, it is important to check the source regularly to get the most current information. The toolkit is available in its entirety at

Online Training

Staff training is a fundamental part of vaccine storage and handling practices. Staff members who receive vaccine deliveries should be trained in vaccine-related practices and procedures, as well as those who handle or administer vaccines. Furthermore, training should not a one-time event. Storage and handling training should be completed:

  • As a part of new employee orientation
  • Annually as a refresher for all staff involved in immunization and vaccine storage and handling
  • Whenever new vaccines are added to inventory
  • Whenever recommendations for storage and handling of vaccines are updated

The CDC offers the free, online training module You Call the Shots focused on vaccine storage and handling requirements. This interactive, web-based training course includes learning opportunities, self-test practice questions, reference and resource materials, and a glossary. Access the module at

Standard Operating Procedure Formats

Storage and handling SOPs should focus on three major areas:

  • General information: include contact information for vaccine manufacturers, equipment service providers, and key facility staff, as well as job descriptions, regularly used forms, and staff training requirements
  • Routine storage and handling SOPs: include information for all aspects of vaccine inventory management, from ordering to monitoring storage conditions
  • Emergency vaccine storage, handling, and transport SOPs: outline steps to be taken in the event of equipment malfunctions, power failures, natural disasters, or other emergencies that might compromise vaccine storage conditions

For sample worksheets that include best practice steps, see the resource section of the toolkit. See the FIGURE for a sample worksheet.

Transporting Vaccines

While vaccines should not be routinely transported outside of emergencies, to off-site clinics, or to ensure vaccines that are about to expire can be administered, it is important to be prepared before a transport situation arises. The toolkit provides detailed recommendations for transport based on various situations. The toolkit also offers the following additional resources:

  • The Packing Vaccines for Transport during Emergencies tool describes a step-by-step system in which properly conditioned frozen water bottles can be used as a coolant when transporting vaccine during emergency situations. Available at
  • While the CDC recommends transporting vaccines in vials, there may be instances when the only option is to transport vaccine in a predrawn syringe. The USP includes guidance for transporting predrawn vaccines in syringes in the USP COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit: Operational Considerations for Healthcare Practitioners. Available at

Samantha Halvorsen is the associate editor at Pharmacy Purchasing & Products magazine. She can be reached via email at


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