The importance of storing vaccines correctly

In January 2018 the BBC published an article stating that the UK was in the grip of the worst flu season since 2011.1

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The NHS advises that ‘certain people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.  These people are advised to have a flu jab each year.’2

A report has been published by the government agency Public Health England3 on the seasonal influenza vaccine uptake amongst GP patients for 1st September to 31st January 2018. The statistics on GP patients who received the flu vaccination as supplied by the NHS England Local Team can be summarised as the following:

  • 72.6% of people aged 65 years and over
  • 48.9% of people from the age of 6 months to under 65 years in the at risk category
  • 45.7% of pregnant women not in a clinical risk group
  • 62.1% of pregnant women in a clinical risk group

The NHS advises that patients 'can have their flu jab at their GP surgery, local pharmacy offering the service or their midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women.'4

With this in mind it is important for healthcare providers to ensure that they have the specialised vaccine refrigerators to store the relevant vaccinations in. 

Find out more about compliant vaccine refrigeration 

How Should You Be Storing Vaccines?

The Department of Health’s ‘Green Book’ – Chapter 35 advises that ordinary domestic refrigerators must not be used.  Food, drink and clinical specimens must never be stored in the same refrigerator as vaccines.  It is recommended that opening the refrigerator door is kept to a minimum in order to maintain a constant temperature.  In order to assist with this requirement, the refrigerator temperature gauge should be clearly visible to read without the need to open the fridge door.

The minimum requirements to provide adequate refrigerator conditions as stated in Chapter 3 of the Department of Health’s ‘Green Book’ include the following:6

  • The refrigerator is lockable or within a locked room. All vaccines are Prescription Only Medicines (POMs) and must be stored under locked conditions
  • The refrigerator is the right size to meet the vaccination storage needs, i.e. there is sufficient space around the vaccine packages for air to circulate and there is sufficient capacity for vaccines for seasonal/additional programmes such as the annual influenza vaccination campaign
  • The refrigerator is placed in a suitable position (ventilated and away from heat sources)
  • Ice is not building up in the fridge. If defrosting is necessary, vaccines should be stored temporarily in a suitable alternative refrigerator or in a validated medical-grade cool box, but for the minimum possible time
  • Steps have been taken to reduce the probability of accidental interruption of electricity supply, such as installing a switchless socket or clearly labelling the vaccine refrigerator plug.

From the information provided in the Green Book it can be concluded that using a standard domestic refrigerator is NOT suitable for storing vaccinations.  It is therefore important for the above guidelines as supplied by the Department of Health to be observed. 

Click below to find out more about vaccine refrigerators which conform with the Department of Health ‘Green Book’ requirements on Storage, Distribution and Disposal of Vaccines (Chapter 3)

Find out more about compliant vaccine refrigeration 

[1] Triggle, Nick, UK 'in grip of worst flu season since 2011', 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42725152 (Accessed 01/07/2018)

[2] NHS: Who should have the flu jab?, 2016, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/who-should-have-flu-vaccine/ (Accessed 01/07/2018)

[3] Public Health England: Seasonal influenza vaccine uptake amongst
GP Patients in England, 2017/2018, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/684553/Seasonal_flu_vaccine_uptake_GP_patients_2017_2018_01_September_31_January_Local_Team.pdf(Accessed 01/07/2018) 

[4] NHS: The flu jab, 2016, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/ (Accessed 01/07/2018)

[5] Public Health England: Storage, distribution and disposal of vaccines: the green book, chapter 3, 2013, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/storage-distribution-and-disposal-of-vaccines-the-green-book-chapter-3 (Accessed 01/07/2018)

[6] Public Health England: Storage, distribution and disposal of vaccines: the green book, chapter 3, 2013, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223753/Green_Book_Chapter_3_v3_0W.pdf (Accessed 01/07/2018)