ACHRNEWS

Maintaining Medical Refrigeration Units: Give It More Than a Shot

June 15, 2012

A study was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General concerning vaccine storage. The report, titled “Vaccines for Children Program: Vulnerabilities in Vaccine Management,” found that medical practice locations that were studied were not entirely properly storing vaccines and in other ways were not following proper vaccine management practices.

The report’s executive summary said, “Although the majority of storage temperatures we independently measured during a two-week period were within the required ranges, VFC [vaccines for children] vaccines stored by 76 percent of the 45 selected providers were exposed to inappropriate temperatures for at least 5 cumulative hours during that period. Exposure to inappropriate temperatures can reduce vaccine potency and efficacy, increasing the risk that children are not provided with maximum protection against preventable diseases. Thirteen providers stored expired vaccines together with nonexpired vaccines, increasing the risk of mistakenly administering the expired vaccine. Finally, the selected providers generally did not meet vaccine management requirements or maintain required documentation. Similarly, none of the five selected grantees met all VFC program oversight requirements, and grantee site visits were not effective in ensuring that providers met vaccine management requirements over time.”

So you might wonder why I’m bringing this up considering this isn’t a medical trade magazine. I’m broaching the topic because to me it reminds me that while much of what happens with vaccine management has little to do with the HVACR industry, when vaccines are being transported from labs to the doctors’ offices and while they are being stored in doctors’ offices — that’s where the refrigeration sector plays a role. Refrigeration units that store vaccines, whether in transit or at the end user’s location, need to be kept in good working order so that the “inappropriate temperatures” don’t “reduce vaccine potency and efficacy.”

Make sure that any medical refrigeration you install and service is functioning correctly and kept within the temperature range it should to do its job to store whatever is stored in the unit, whether it’s vaccines, blood/blood products, etc. Also, it may be a new client base for some of you refrigeration contractors, especially if you can get service agreements with the medical facility, so that you can help them keep their refrigeration equipment running well.

But even if it doesn’t help you get any clients, it’s a reminder of the importance that proper refrigeration plays in daily life for us and our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. While the refrigeration segment has a small role to play in the field of medicine, it’s a vital role.