Medicines must be prescribed, dispensed and administered safely and effectively. Safe storage of medicines is something we all expect. With vaccine and medicine storage having to meet pharmacy temperature monitoring guidelines issued by the MHRA. Yet public confidence in vaccination programs is being shaken.  

In June 2019 it was reported that two Sydney GP’s had administered poorly stored vaccines to patients, including infants and young children. This was thought to go as far back as 2010, affecting more than 3000 patients. Investigators found vaccines were incorrectly stored or out-of-date at the practice. The vaccines included measles mumps and rubella (MMR), the seasonal flu formulations and a range of vaccines on the National Immunisation Program.  

 Closer to home the Care Quality Commission in July 2018 rated a health clinic in London as inadequate. With the report highlighting two pharmaceutical refrigerators, for the storage of patient vaccines, had been recorded as out of range, over numerous occasions, since 2017.  

This comes at the same time the BBC reported on the Low Trust in Vaccination, calling it ‘a global crisis’. Quoting figures from the Wellcome Global Monitor they also state that the World Health Organization lists vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health. 

Three questions to ask when verifying the safe storage of vaccines
It’s more important than ever that trust in vaccine quality is assured. The most overlooked and undervalued area is the correct storage conditions to ensure vaccine efficacy is maintained.  

Put simply, if a vaccine is stored at a temperature above the manufacture’s recommended temperature then it’s shelf life can be dramatically reduced. If stored at too low a temperature or if it freezes then the vaccine can be unstable and in some cases will even produce a cloudy or separated appearance. In both cases the result is a non-effective vaccine. 

This is not the time to lose patient trust. So what can you do to ensure your vaccines are stored correctly? 

Do you enforce a safety-first culture? 

Remember safety is an attitude, embedding safety in all aspects of your day-to-day work is extremely important. Safety means you value your staff, your clinic, your patients and your reputation. The regulators are not there to police safety, they serve to ensure the minimum standards are followed, to ensure trust is never broken…. Ask yourself: is the minimum enough?  

What would it mean to your clinic if you lost patient trust?

Staff are often short on time and under pressure, so safety procedures can be overlooked or incomplete. With manual temperature monitoring it’s also not possible to determine how long stock has been exposed to the out of spec temperature. So, the only safe option is to bin the stock – an added cost to the NHS or pharmacist. The safe storage and delivery of medicines is an area The Kings Fund report highlights for achieving significant cost efficiencies. Can you confidently demonstrate compliance and maintain patient trust? 

When was the last time you audited your Vaccine storage? 

Can you confidently say your Vaccine storage is meeting current standards? If not what simply steps can you take to meet standards? What resource do you need to put this in place?  

At Checkit, our goals are simple. With independent monitoring of the healthcare and drug development activity, we aim to Improve health outcomes, protect reputations and support your team.