What to Know About Vaccine Storage Methods

The field of medicine has made some truly impressive advances in the last few centuries, and this has led to much higher standards of public health and safety. Vaccines, surgical equipment sterilization, germ theory, microscopes, and more have transformed medicine as we know it, and vaccines in particular are vital for fighting off disease. Many studies have confirmed the live-saving power of vaccines around the world, and millions of lives have been protected due to routine shots at hospitals and urgent care centers. But for all their power, vaccines are also fragile, so proper storage solutions, such as a medical refrigerator or a vaccine refrigerator freezer, are needed. These pharmaceutical freezers, from huge medical refrigerators to tiny benchtop freezers, can store temperature-sensitive vaccines with ease. What is there to know, then, about proper vaccine storage and the history of vaccines overall?

Vaccines Then and Now

Vaccines as we know them date back further than some people might realize, and people have been getting vaccinated for over 200 years. Back in the year 1796, the British scientist Edward Jenner developed what he called the “arm to arm” inoculation method to fight off smallpox, the first breakthrough in vaccine theory. He did this by transferring a tissue sample from a cowpox patient’s skin blister to the skin of another patient, and this controlled exposure served to train the patient’s immune system against smallpox and cowpox. This method proved a success, and vaccines have been in use ever since. By the 1940s, mass production of vaccines had begun, and many of these vaccines fought off common illnesses of the time such as smallpox, whooping cough, Diphtheria, and tetanus, among others. By now, in the 21st century, vaccines can also protect patients from viruses such as Polio and measles, too.

Patients both young and old need proper vaccination for protection against deadly viruses. When a baby is born, for example, its parents will be given a schedule for when to bring their child in for routine and safe shots, often during the child’s first few years of life. A youngster’s immune system is still growing, and it may need reinforcement from vaccines to keep the child safe. Today’s vaccinations have long since ended historically high rates of child deaths due to disease. Meanwhile, adults may get shots to update their own immunity, such as attending a flu shot drive during influenza. Urgent care centers and hospitals may host flu shot drives to help keep a community safe. Senior citizens have age-worn immune systems that are vulnerable to disease unless they get shots, and routine shots can prevent the spread of illness in a crowded retirement home. But what about storage solutions for these powerful vaccines?

Medical Refrigerator and More

There is no doubt that vaccines are very effective against disease. In fact, the measles vaccine reduced annual measles death rates 79% from 2000 to 2014. But vaccines are delicate and sensitive to temperature, so medical refrigerators and freezers are needed to contain them safely at a research lab or a hospital. These units are geared for storing vaccines and tissue samples, and they can easily regulate their internal temperature carefully. By contrast, commercial and ordinary freezers are designed for food, and they have high temperature variance when their doors are opened. This makes them unsuitable for vaccine storage.

Instead, the staff at a hospital or a research lab can visit the online catalogs that medical suppliers offer, and find wholesale medical refrigerator units and pharmacy grade freezers of all sizes and shapes. Buyers can also explore the secondary market for gently used medical coolers at a discount price, though the buyer should look over a used unit carefully before making a purchase. Either way, a buyer will want to find a unit that suits their needs, where a large hospital’s staff may need a huge medical freezer to store hundreds of vaccines at once. By contrast, the staff at a research lab may find small benchtop freezers or even undercounter medical refrigerator units to save room. The buyers should check ahead of time to ensure that a freezer or cooler can generate the desired temperature inside. Some frozen vaccines may require very low temperatures during storage.