Recent headlines remind us of the importance of credible vaccine programmes. With the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting on measles outbreaks in many countries around the world. The recent shocking news from Samoa shows what can happen when public trust in vaccines and the programmes that deliver them fail. The outbreak on the pacific island nation was in part triggered following the deaths of two children in 2018, who were administered a wrongly mixed MMR vaccine. This news caused a decline in vaccine uptake. In-deed WHO has reported that vaccine hesitancy is one of the ten biggest health threats in 2019.
Closer to home we are seeing an early arrival of the ‘Flu season’ here in the UK and many are being urged to take the vaccine prior to visiting friends and family for Christmas. So, what needs to be considered when administering a successful immunisation programme?
It is important that all staff involved in delivering immunisation programmes understand the correct ordering, storing and administering of vaccines. It is also important that they are aware of maintaining optimum cold chain conditions, so that vaccines remain potent and effective.
Safe storage of medicines and vaccines is something we all expect. With vaccine and medicine storage having to meet pharmacy temperature monitoring guidelines issued by the MHRA. The GPhC also require compliance with regulations, to protect standards and ensure best practice. With patient safety at the core of these regulations.
Vaccines should be stored in a validated vaccine fridge. A fridge that is monitored to meet regulatory compliance. This fridge should be set to store vaccines between the recommended +2°C to +8°C temperature range and used solely for the storage of vaccines. It is best practice to aim for a temperature of +5°C, the mid-point in the recommended temperature range.
It is important the medical fridge is large enough to hold vaccine stock, whilst allowing space around vaccines for air to circulate. This fridge should also be locked, or in a locked room. Having it wired into a switchless socket will avoid it being switched off. Fridges with glass doors and with labelling on the outside of the fridge, help avoid the door being open for longer than necessary.
With manual monitoring it’s not possible to determine how long the stock was exposed to the out of spec temperature. With automated remote monitoring the process can be continuous. Alerts can be raised automatically if the storage environment falls out of the designated temperature remit. Meaning you can act quickly to ensure the efficacy of vaccine stock.
Annual calibration of temperature probes to UKAS standards is also recommended.
Managing your temperature sensitive storage is easier through automated remote monitoring. Data is automatically recorded and reports can be generated simply, meaning you can be inspection ready at any point.
As well as safeguarding vaccines through the correct storage protocols it is also important to ensure the correct handling and management of the vaccine stock. This involves a series of processes and checks. From receipt of vaccines, through to administering.
On delivery a designated member of staff should check the order, looking for possible discrepancies or damage. Then, once accepted, swiftly store the delivery, in its original packaging, in a validated vaccine fridge. The designated member of staff should also record the receipt of the vaccines in the stock inventory record.
It is also important to maintain accurate records of vaccine stock. Vaccines should be tracked and accounted for and expiry dates monitored so that those close to their expiry are used first. Best practice recommendations for vaccine storage include weekly audits of the contents of the vaccine fridge, monthly stock check and rotations and the sharing of audit results and temperature logs quarterly with the local screening and immunisation teams.
Many of the manual processes could be checked and monitored through our Work Management application. Using a hand-held memo staff can use it as a prompt to review and provide evidence, through photos or barcodes, confirming that stock is in date, stored appropriately, with no damage to packaging, for example. With all checks being date and time stamped.
For both Work Management and Automated monitoring all data is stored in the Cloud and accessed through online dashboards. Meaning the immunisation manager or RP can have visibility of all storage and medicine management protocols at all times.
Credibility of immunisations programmes can be undermined by inappropriate ordering, storing and handling of vaccines. Automating through technology, whether that be monitoring temperature sensitive storage or people driven processes can bring greater reliability.
With automated temperature monitoring correct vaccine storage can be monitored 24/7. With temperature alerts being issued in real-time, meaning any risk to vaccine storage can be acted on immediately. Additionally the management of vaccine stock can be assisted with digital stock inventories, or through digital checks and prompts, with tools such as our Work Management memo.
Whichever approach you take it is ultimately important to maintain high quality, safe and effective immunisation programmes. To intern maintain confidence within the community, so that uptake of vaccinations remains high, preventing disease outbreaks.