Proper storage and handling of vaccines is critical to their efficacy and safety.

Storage and handling instructions may be product specific. It is important to read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for each product regarding: storage temperature, exposure to light during storage, and shaking of the product to assure uniform vaccine suspension.

Proper temperature

Vaccines must be stored at the proper temperature of 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit for most vaccines and must not be frozen. It is incumbent upon the veterinarian to mitigate temperature excursions to ensure product quality. Failures in temperature regulation can occur during product shipping, especially if improperly packaged or during extreme cold or hot weather, in the refrigerator where vaccines are stored, during the time between drawing vaccines up at a clinic and administration, and/or during ambulatory truck refrigeration.

Maintaining vaccines at the appropriate temperature from manufacturer/supplier to patient administration is critical to effective immunization delivery programs. Lack of adherence to proper temperature maintenance can result in lack of efficacy, undue vaccine failures, and an increased rate of adverse reactions post-vaccination.

Recommendations to help improve vaccine management practices:

  • Keep a working thermometer in the refrigerator and ; monitor the temperature twice daily. Maintenance of a temperature log is advisable, particularly if multiple people share responsibility for temperature monitoring. Vaccine storage alarms can be well worth the cost due to notification of temperature excursions outside the recommended storage temperature prior to reaching a threshold upon which all stored vaccines must be discarded.
  • It is best practice to maintain a current vaccine inventory log. This log should include vaccine name, manufacturer, lot number, expiration date, date and number of doses received, and arrival condition of vaccine.
  • Organize vaccines according to expiration date, avoiding wastage by ensuring that products with earlier expiration dates are used before products with later dates.
  • Have a designated individual responsible for handling and storage of vaccines.
  • Store vaccines in a refrigerator with a separate freezer compartment.
  • Store vaccines in the middle of the refrigerator, NOT in the door or against the back of the refrigerator.
  • In the event of a power failure, keep the refrigerator door closed until power is restored or a suitable location for the vaccine has been identified. Refrigeration can be maintained in a kitchen-sized refrigerator (20 to 24 ft3) for 6 to 9 hours if the doors remain closed. Once power is restored, promptly check refrigerator temperature to determine if vaccines have been exposed to temperatures outside of the recommended range. If power outage is expected to be longer than 6 to 9 hours, remove vaccines to a container that is maintained with ice. Monitor temperature in this container.
  • Ambulatory vehicles should have a thermometer in the refrigeration unit or portable cooler in which vaccines are carried. Temperature should be checked each time the container is opened. Note: A freezer pack placed in a cooler is not sufficient to maintain vaccines in the proper temperature range throughout the course of a work day. Additionally, care should be taken to not place vaccines directly on ice packs. Paper or bubble wrap is ideal to be placed between ice packs and vaccines.
  • Aseptic technique: Per manufacturers’ instructions, aseptic technique is to be followed when handling and administering vaccines. Vaccine administration sites (skin / haircoat, mucosa) are to be clean. Each animal should be vaccinated with separate new needles and syringes for each vaccine product to avoid cross contamination of products and possible adverse reactions and to reduce the possibility of spreading blood-borne pathogens.
  • Route of administration: Care must be taken to ensure that vaccines are administered via the intended route. Intranasal vaccines should NEVER be given via the intramuscular route.

When to consult the manifacturer

Consult the vaccine manufacturer if vaccine:

  • Is exposed to temperatures outside of the recommended range
  • Undergoes color change during storage
  • Is exposed to ultraviolet radiation