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New Recommendations for Proper Vaccine Storage

By Andrea Fralick, PharmD candidate, The Ohio State University, Rotating student at OPA

Pharmacists and pharmacy interns now have an established role in administering immunizations to the public.  To ensure the efficacy of these vaccines, immunizing pharmacists must pay close attention to the storage conditions of the vaccine supply.  In October 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided updated recommendations on vaccine storage. It is important for pharmacists to be aware of these changes and take action to comply with the updated recommendations. 

This new guidance from CDC was a result of collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  CDC officials requested the assistance of NIST in identifying problems in the typical cold-chain management systems utilized by vaccine providers.  NIST researchers identified key factors causing widespread problems.  Based on these findings, CDC’s updated recommendations include:

  1.  A digital thermometer with a biosafe glycol-encased probe or a similar temperature buffered probe should be used to monitor temperature.
  2. The temperature should be continuously monitored using a digital data logger.
  3. Stand-alone refrigerator and stand-alone freezer units should be used, as opposed to combination (refrigerator + freezer) units.
  4. Dorm-style or bar-style refrigerator/freezers should NEVER be used for vaccine storage.
  5. Review of vaccine expiration dates and rotation of vaccine stock should occur weekly.

The use of small, pharmaceutical grade refrigerators and storage of refrigerated vaccines in combination refrigerator/freezer units are also included in the updated recommendations.  

The complete recommendations are included in CDC’s Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit. This comprehensive resource for providers on vaccine storage and handling recommendations and best practice strategies can be found at

Additional vaccine storage information can be found on the NIST website at

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