Vaccines will be in high demand as a winter flu vaccination programme is rolled out and progress on a potential Covid-19 vaccine continues. But supply chains will be stretched by numerous factors, including stockpiling, possible Brexit disruption and care backlogs.
A digital approach to medicine management is one way for primary care providers and pharmacies to mitigate against potential shortages. By reducing the risk of vaccines being lost or harmed, healthcare providers can protect the stock on their premises.
Storage conditions are one area of focus. Vaccines may lose their effectiveness if they become too hot or too cold at any time. Guidance on storage, distribution and disposal of vaccines can be found in the Green Book and temperature monitoring standards are set out by the MHRA. The GPhC also requires compliance with regulations to protect standards and ensure best practice.
Vaccines should be stored in a validated vaccine fridge that is monitored for regulatory compliance and maintaining temperatures of between 2°C to and 8°C.
Manual monitoring routines are a burden on busy staff, especially during peak periods. Another problem with periodic manual monitoring is that it’s impossible to determine how long the stock was exposed to an out-of-spec temperature.
Automated temperature monitoring
By contrast, automated monitoring provides continuous vigilance. Alerts can be raised automatically if the storage environment deviates from designated temperatures, enabling staff to respond quickly and protect stock. Meaning you can act quickly to ensure the efficacy of vaccine stock.
Digital data is automatically recorded and accurate, detailed reports are quickly accessible for inspection purposes.
Not all automated monitoring solutions are created equal, however. It’s advisable to look out for UKAS-approved three-point calibration of temperature sensors, as well as regulatory compliance of systems and 24/7 support to assist in case of issues. Checkit’s Connected Automated Monitoring solutions lead the way in fulfilling these criteria.
Managing the process
In addition to storage protocols, the processing and checking of vaccine stock can also help avoid loss. It starts from the point of delivery, when a designated member of staff should check the order for possible discrepancies or damage. Once accepted, the stock must be moved into a validated vaccine fridge and noted in the inventory record.
From that point, vaccine stocks require regular reviews, with expiry dates checked so that those closest to expiry are used first. Best practice recommendations for vaccine storage include a weekly audit of vaccine fridge contents plus monthly stock checks and rotations. In addition, holders of vaccine stock are encouraged to share their records with local screening and immunisation teams.
Digital support can be applied here too. A new breed of process management tool prompts, guides and logs the actions of teams according to best practice. With Connected Workflow Management, a mobile app enables photos and barcode scanning on-the-spot to help manage stock, with expiry dates and quantities captured in real time and securely stored in the cloud.
By introducing digital empowerment at every stage of vaccine provision, from pharmaceutical development and distribution to the point where vaccines are administered to patients, we can protect public trust, ensure efficacy and prevent wastage.
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