Vaccines are rightfully recognized as the most efficient and cost-effective form of preventive medicine in the history of healthcare. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates that every dose of vaccine contributes to the welfare of a virus-stricken world.
Every country around the globe is using vaccines as the solution for fighting the virus and its surging variants, like the Omicron variant which is creating extraordinary concern right now.
And vaccines for most viral illnesses have specific requirements that, if followed, ensure optimal efficacy. These requirements often include being manufactured, transported, and stored within particular temperature ranges.
For instance, the Covid-19 vaccines require extremely cold temperatures during storage to maintain their potency. If they deviate from the recommended range, they may lose potency and fail to provoke the immune response needed to fight the virus. Thus, temperature monitoring of vaccines is critical
Three vaccines are approved for public immunization against Covid-19 in most countries. Of the three, Pfizer vaccines scale highest in terms of maintenance and storage requirements. They require a cold chain storage temperature of -70 degrees Celsius or -94 degrees Fahrenheit, in other words, a temperature chillier than record lows of the South Pole. However, Pfizer vaccines can also be stored in a home freezer for about two weeks.
Similar to Pfizer, Moderna also has a specific temperature storage range between -25 and -15 degrees Celsius or -13 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. For AstraZeneca, the temperature requirement is a bit warmer, i.e., between 2-8 degrees Celsius or 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. To maintain these temperature ranges, cold chains are an essential component of getting the vaccinations from the manufacturer to a patient’s arm.
As suggested by the CDC, vaccines must be stored in a hard-walled cooler to ensure their stability and temperature maintenance while they are transported. Frozen blankets must be used at the bottom of the coolers, and the box must be covered with a layer of sturdy bubble wrap. Moreover, the vaccine vials must only be removed from the storage box when the recipient is ready to receive the dose, and the healthcare worker is all set to administer the dose. To regulate the cold chain system, it is essential to ensure that the vials with the remaining solution are instantly kept back in their favorable temperature conditions to maintain the cold chain.
Fortunately, temperature monitoring of vaccines is much easier and more efficient compared to the past few decades. Storage facilities and healthcare sectors have shifted from manual thermometers to digitized data loggers with sensors and memory chips to record and process temperature changes. Some facilities go a step further and use data loggers that facilitate notifications and send push notifications to the right authorities in case the temperature goes out of the required range.
Healthcare technologies use temperature monitoring systems to enhance and optimize cold storage facilities. Data loggers assist in recording the slightest temperature change, and the history helps ensure that there was no point of risk during the transportation and storage processes. T
The change from min/max thermometers to digital data logging thermometers or DDLs has transformed the temperature monitoring landscape, helping to ensure the safety and efficacy of vaccines and reduce wastage.
With the improved technology, facilities are also calling for change. The latest upgrades, like cloud-based thermometers, cater to the need for temperature monitoring while adhering to physical distancing. These thermometers are digital loggers that do not require physical intervention and are able to send an alert to personal devices.
According to a report by Dickson Data, the primary factor hindering vaccine efficacy is the mishandling of vaccines during their transfer from the manufacturing units to storage or the room where they are about to be administered. Any mishandling puts the vaccines at high risk of being exposed to temperatures outside the cold chain range. In some cases, the additional friction and disturbance caused by the route can lead to vials breaking and consequent wastage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for healthcare workers and concerned authorities to adhere to proper handling practices for vaccines to prevent such scenarios.
Vaccines that are adequately stored yield successful immunization. With continuous temperature monitoring studies, training camps for healthcare workers, and the latest monitoring technologies, the awareness of suitable storage conditions has increased. It is likely that the future holds better prospects for successful strategies to maintain fully potent vaccines as well as their safe storage and handling.
Countries spend thousands of dollars on vaccines, from research to manufacturing, storage, transportation, and immunization drives. The entire setup is a result of rigorous planning and investment. Mishandling of vaccines disrupts the structure and causes losses in terms of health, finances, logistics, and the confidence of patients in the administration of vaccines. In research conducted by CDC, it was revealed that over 76% of vaccine providers have a flawed cold chain system and end up exposing their vaccines to poor temperature conditions. This study identified the common issues and came up with solutions to address them and establish better cold-chain operations.
Temperature monitoring is a crucial part of managing vaccines and everyone involved in the vaccine process, from delivery to administration, has learned the importance of it. Vaccines are delicate substances that need to be stored appropriately and handled correctly right from the time of manufacturing to the time they are used.
For many vaccines, even brief exposure to light–and temperatures outside acceptable ranges–can reduce their potency. Once the potency is reduced or lost, it cannot be restored. With every stack of vaccines wasted, the vacuum between patients vulnerable to diseases and vaccine protection gets widened. Keeping the gap as narrow as possible will take a combined effort and awareness towards temperature monitoring and cold chain management.