Vaccines Ineffective due to Improper Storage

Vaccines must be stored properly from the time they are manufactured until they are administered. Proper vaccine storage and handling practices play a very important role in protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccine quality is the shared responsibility of everyone. Every facility should have detailed written protocols for routine and emergency vaccine storage and handling and they should be updated annually. These policies and procedures should be available in writing as a reference for all staff members and easily accessible. The success of efforts against vaccine-preventable diseases is attributable in part to proper storage and handling of vaccines. Vaccines exposed to temperatures outside the recommended ranges can have reduced potency and protection. Storage and handling errors can cost lakhs of rupees in wasted vaccine and revaccination. Errors can also result in the loss of patient confidence when repeat doses are required. It is better to not vaccinate than to administer a dose of vaccine that has been mishandled. Vaccine management, including proper storage and handling procedures, is the basis on which good immunization practices are built.

Assuring vaccine quality and maintaining the cold chain is a shared responsibility among manufacturers, distributors, public health staff, and health-care providers. A proper cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain that includes all equipment and procedures used in the transport and storage and handling of vaccines from the time of manufacture to administration of the vaccine. By following a few simple steps and implementing best storage and handling practices, providers can ensure that patients will get the full benefit of vaccines they receive.

Recent news on wastage of vaccines

At least 25 per cent of the vaccines go waste even before reaching the doctors and patients while many lose their efficacy by the time they are administered due to lack of quality supply chain and logistics management system. This is posing a major challenge for the government as well as public health agencies working to expand the immunization coverage, mainly in the hinterland where supply chain logistics and infrastructure are in poor shape. Most vaccines are heat sensitive and remain potent between 2 degree Celsius and 8 degree Celsius. Thus maintaining a cold chain becomes critical to their efficacy.

According to the Immunization Technical Support Unit under the health ministry, the wastage differs for each vaccine, but the supply of vaccines is computed by 25 per cent wastage rate for all vaccines except BCG which records the maximum wastage of over 50 per cent. The wastage rate also varies across states depending on infrastructure and cold storage capacity.

To address the issue, the health ministry is now taking its immunization drive a step further to add more cold chains and better manage the supply chain. Under its universal immunization programme- the world’s largest vaccination drive -the ministry has planned over 27,000 cold chain points for storing and distributing vaccines. Besides, the ministry is also planning to strengthen the system by rolling out a real time electronic vaccine intelligence network which will enable vaccine stock management as well as monitoring of cold chain temperature using mobile technology.

Vaccines storage guidelines