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Apr 7 2019

Storage – Handling – California Vaccines for Children (VFC)

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Storage Handling

Vaccine Storage Units

Participating providers agree to store all VFC-supplied vaccines in vaccine refrigerators and freezers that meet California VFC Program requirements. Adherence to storage and handing requirements is certified as part of annual provider recertification and during both routine and unannounced site visits conducted by VFC Field Representatives.

The California VFC Program does not endorse or recommend specific products. Providers may purchase any vaccine storage units that meet California VFC Program requirements outlined below.

If you are unclear about vaccine storage unit requirements, contact your VFC Field Representative prior to making a purchase.

Refrigerators and freezers are available in different types (stand-alone and combination) and grades (pharmaceutical, commercial, and household).

Stand-alone: These types are self-contained units designed as either refrigerator-only or freezer-only and range in size from compact, under-the-counter styles to very large pharmaceutical-grade units.

Combination: These types have both a refrigerator and a freezer with separate exterior doors.

Pharmaceutical: These purpose-built grades are specifically designed to maintain consistent temperatures for storage of vaccines or biologics in pharmacy, biologics, or laboratory settings.

Commercial: These grades are intended to store food and beverages in commercial settings. They are often larger and more powerful than household units but are not designed to store biologics and experience some temperature fluctuations.

Household: These grades are intended for food storage, typically in homes and offices.

Participating providers agree to use or purchase vaccine refrigerators that meet these requirements:

  • Maintain consistent temperatures between 35.0ºF and 46.0ºF (between 2.0ºC and 8.0ºC);
  • Ensure compact units with a capacity of 11 cubic feet or less are pharmacy- or biologic-grade;
  • Have sufficient capacity to store all the practice’s refrigerated vaccines, along with sufficient water bottles to stabilize temperatures;
  • Defrost automatically;
  • Seal tightly and close properly;
  • Be used primarily for vaccine storage. In limited circumstances, medications or biologic media (not inoculated) may be stored on the shelves below vaccines.

Not all refrigerators are designed to maintain proper temperatures that protect vaccine viability. When evaluating existing or shopping for new vaccine refrigerators, select the required grade and type by practice volume.

Participating providers agree to buy new storage units under the following circumstances:

  • existing vaccine storage units do not meet VFC Program specifications
  • your practice has had storage incidents resulting in spoiled vaccines

Before Purchasing Vaccine Storage Units

Make sure they will fit in a designated space that meets VFC Program requirements. Vaccine storage units should be placed

  • in rooms with good air circulation,
  • away from direct sunlight and any heat sources,
  • within reach of an outlet (without an extension cord) that is not shared with any other appliances or controlled by a wall switch, and
  • with at least 4 inches of space around the top, bottom, and sides.

If you are unclear about vaccine storage unit requirements, contact your VFC Field Representative prior to making a purchase.

Time spent up front organizing your vaccine storage units will save you time later by reducing the frequency of preventable temperature excursions. Storage units should be organized for efficiency to reduce time spent searching for vaccines, administration errors, and vaccine exposure to room temperatures.

Prepare Vaccine Storage Units

Prepare vaccine refrigerators and freezers by maximizing space for vaccines, as well as water bottles or frozen ice packs that help to stabilize temperatures. Refrigerators and freezers must be set to the required temperature ranges:

Freeze MMR, MMRV, and Varicella at 5.0º F or below.
Refrigerate all other vaccines at 35.0º F – 46.0º F.

Set Up Vaccine Storage Units

Then set up refrigerators and freezers by designating separate spaces for VFC-supplied and privately purchased vaccines. Clearly group and label vaccines by pediatric, adolescent, and adult types.

Stabilize Temperatures before Storing

Make sure you have a VFC-compliant data logger that is set up and ready for use. Then monitor storage unit temperatures twice daily until temperatures have been stable in the required range for about 3-5 days before storing vaccines.


Written by CREDIT


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