Good Practices and Vaccine Storage and Distribution

Preeti Saluja, Cold Chain Expert, Global Leader, Speaker IATA Trainer and Head-Pharma Transport Solutions at B Medical Systems

Good practices, cold chain, vaccines – the most talked about terms in recent times. While being from the industry, these are the words we work with, eat with and sleep with but never were these terms as common as these are right now. The scale at which we talk about the transportation and storage of vaccine is huge. It’s even hard to compute how huge it is.

To meet the current demands of the storage and distribution, not only do we need the infrastructure, equipments and resources but the other less talked about aspects of managing these equipments and resources as well.

There always have been a need to train people on good practices and cold chain but unfortunately training was just another HR activity and the cost to the company for a lot of companies. There is no better time than now to ensure that the people are trained and are aware of good practices to effectively do this great task of vaccinating the world around us.

There are number of documents available on good storage and distribution practices from CDC to WHO and other agencies. As a starting step, the need is really to understand the aspects mentioned in them.

Just for an example sake, here are the main topics that CDC guideline on vaccine storage and handling covers:

  1. Vaccine Cold Chain
  2. Staff and Training
  3. Vaccine Storage and Temperature Monitoring Equipment
    • Freezers and Refrigerators
    • Temperature Monitoring devices
    • Temperature Monitoring
  4. Vaccine Inventory Management
  5. Vaccine Preparation
  6. Vaccine Transport
  7. Emergency Vaccine Storage and Handling

A good guideline document tries to cover most of the aspects of the storage and distribution. Going through the guidelines can prove to be a very good first step to start the planning around it.

Having the vaccines stored and transported at the right temperature is one of the biggest factor that ensures the efficacy of the vaccines.

At one side, we talk about the good practices and on the other side , there is a new column every day about how vaccines are being stored, used, wasted and so on.

Recently, came across an article where in the five star hotel in Mumbai, vaccines, were being stored in hotel refrigerator, an article was shared on linkedin as usual, people were arguing in the comments section about how this is ok or not ok to store the vaccines in the home refrigerator and everybody seems to have an opinion on the same.

As for me, coming from the background of compliance, put my trust in WHO guidelines which clearly states that “Domestic refrigerators do not have good temperature control and they cannot keep vaccines cool during electricity cuts of more than one or two hours. These units are not specifically built or designed to store vaccines. For this reason, domestic refrigerators are not recommended by WHO for vaccine storage”.

In order to ensure that the vaccines are properly stored and distributed, in my opinion, the idea is to start thinking step by step and follow the guidelines.

1. When you procure the vaccine What are the quantities required- Divide the area geographically and have an idea of how many people are to be vaccinated and thus what is the number of doses needed on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

2. How and where will these be stored – What is the storage requirements of the vaccines? which equipments can be used? Are these equipments meeting the required guidelines for storage? what are the temperature conditions?

3. How to monitor those temperature conditions? The best way to do it to have the real time temperature monitoring. Some RTMDs must have the capacity to send the alerts in case of temperature excursions. After the alerts are received, what are the corrective and preventive actions to ensure that the efficacy of the vaccine is not impacted?

4. After the storage, the planning on the last mile deliveries. This could be tricky.

5. Last mile deliveries in urban locations have its own challenges but with limitations of basic infrastructure in rural areas, it need complete planning. There is a document available by UNICEF- Solar Powered vaccine refrigerator and freezer systems, it talks in details how solar powered refrigeration and freezer systems can be used in most remote areas where there is no electricity.

6. Managing wastage and used vaccines

There is just so much that can be done when it comes to proper planning, implementing the plan for storage and distribution of vaccines. So much help is already available in terms of the guidelines by experts. Let’s take the help and do this correctly for when we do this correctly, we not only do our job right, but we save lives.

Note: Opinions expressed in this article are solely author’s own and do not express the views or opinions of his employer.

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