Vaccine Storage & Handling
Excessive heat or cold can reduce vaccine potency. You must maintain optimal vaccine storage temperatures as soon as the vaccine arrives at your office up to the time the vaccine is administered to a patient. Review the policies below, in the Routine Vaccine Management Plan and in the PDPH Storage & Handling Guide.
If you encounter a problem with vaccine storage & handling, immediately contact your site’s Vaccine Coordinator and the Philadelphia Immunization Program (see right for contact information).
Vaccine Storage Units
All Storage Units
All vaccine storage units must demonstrate that they can maintain vaccine storage temperatures for 2 weeks prior to vaccine storage.
Dorm-style units are prohibited for vaccine storage – even temporary storage.
Fill the refrigerator door, floor and top shelf with water bottles. Refer to this diagram.
Fill the freezer door and top shelf with cold packs. Refer to this diagram.
Refrigerators: Maintain 35 to 46°F (2 to 8°C). Aim for 40°F (6°C).
Freezers: Maintain 5°F (-15°C) or colder. Aim for 0°F (-18°C).
All vaccines are refrigerated except Varicella vaccine. Varicella is the only vaccine which is stored in the freezer.
Record storage unit temperatures twice daily using the “Temperature Log Forms” below. Keep records on file for 3 years.
Temperature Monitoring Forms
- VFC Temperature Log Form °Fahrenheit
- VFAAR Temperature Log Form °Fahrenheit
- VFC Temperature Log Form °Celsius
- VFAAR Temperature Log Form °Celsius
Temperature Monitoring Resources
- Refrigerator Temperature Range Poster
- Freezer Temperature Range Poster
- What to do when temperatures go out-of-range after business hours
Approved Vaccine Thermometers
Dial and mercury-filled thermometers are not approved for vaccine temperature monitoring. Only use certified calibrated thermometers.
Digital Data Loggers
The Philadelphia Immunization Program is launching a pilot program with 30 providers to test data loggers, which continuously monitor vaccine storage temperatures. The Immunization Program will use information collected from this pilot program to make recommendations for data loggers for all providers.
All digital data loggers must have a certificate of calibration from an accredited laboratory (more information in the Resources below).
Questions? Please contact the Data Logger Specialist Adam Howsare at 215-685-6491 or Adam.Howsare@phila.gov
Receiving Vaccine Shipments
Staff accepting packages from vaccine shipping sources should know the importance of immediate vaccine storage and should know the name of their office’s Vaccine Coordinator.
Upon receiving a vaccine shipment from McKesson, immediately check the 3M MonitorMark™ Time Temperature Indicator, TransTracker® C FREEZEmarker® Indiciator and/or ColdMark™ Freeze Indicator. These tools will show if the vaccine has maintained proper temperature during transportation to your site. Refer to the documents below for more information.
Receiving a Vaccine Shipment
Vaccine Shipment Resources
Separating Private, VFC and VFAAR Vaccine
Private, VFC and VFAAR vaccine should not be interchanged. The VFC and VFAAR programs will verify vaccine accountability during quality assurance visits.
Clearly label VFC and VFAAR vaccine to distinguish it from privately purchased vaccine. VFC and VFAAR vaccine can be labeled as it is unpacked and placed into the storage unit. “VFC” and “VFAAR” stickers are available at no charge upon request from the Philadelphia Immunization Program and may be affixed to cartons as the vaccine is unpacked.
If you cannot check and label your VFC and VFAAR shipment immediately, place the entire contents into a plastic bag and place the bag into proper storage. Do not unpack the vaccine between patients; it is very easy for the unpacking process to be interrupted and for vaccine to be left out and forgotten.
Expired, Spoiled and Wasted Vaccine Policy
Expired VFC/VFAAR vaccine is product that exceeds the listed expiration date.
Spoiled VFC/VFAAR vaccine is product that has been exposed to out-of-range temperatures, and is no longer viable.
Wasted VFC/VFAAR vaccine is product that is in a broken vial/syringe, was drawn from a vial but never used, or product in an open vial that was never finished.
Report expired, spoiled, and wasted vaccine within 30 days after it expires, spoils, or is wasted. After reporting the expired/spoiled vaccine, clearly mark it, wait for a shipping label, then ship the vaccine back to McKesson. Do NOT discard expired and spoiled vaccine. It must be returned. You may discard wasted vaccine.
Emergency Vaccine Management
In case of vaccine temperature excursion or emergency (natural disaster and/or power outage), immediately contact your site’s Vaccine Coordinator and refer to your Emergency Response Plan (posted near the vaccine storage unit). Then contact the Immunization Program (see right sidebar).
Complete Emergency Response Guide
Providers who store over $15,000 worth of VFC vaccines in their storage units are strongly advised to invest in an alarm system that monitors the unit 24 hours a day and notifies the provider of any fluctuation in temperature outside of the recommended range.
Providers storing vaccines worth $15,000 or more who chose not to install alarm systems for storage units must understand the risks of foregoing such protection and agree to be held financially responsible for reimbursement of vaccines wasted as a result of an event causing out-of-range temperatures (power outage, doors left open, refrigeration unit malfunction, etc).
Storage & Handling Resources
Learn more about vaccine storage and handling requirements and recommendations from these trusted sources: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).