Purpose-built vaccine refrigerators in general practices

11 Jul 2019

AMA members are advised that the recently released The National Vaccine Storage Guidelines, Strive for 5, 3rd Edition now stipulates that domestic refrigerators (including bar fridges) are not built or designed to store vaccines and must not be used for vaccine storage.

General practices in New South Wales will have received a letter from their Chief Health Officer (CHO) which reminds practices that they make a declaration when ordering vaccines from the State Vaccine Centre that they comply with the cold chain recommendations in the National Vaccine Storage Guidelines Strive for 5. With the latest guidelines now out the CHO is advising that practices should make arrangements to purchase a purpose built vaccine refrigerator to continue to receive government-funded vaccines.

Purpose-built vaccine refrigerators are specifically designed for storing vaccines. They maintain a stable temperature between the recommended two and eight degrees Celsius, and have alarm and safety features to prevent temperature fluctuations. An additional refrigerator with a freezer section is also required for storing gel packs and ice packs to fill the vaccine fridge during a power failure or for packing vaccines for transport to mobile or outreach sessions.

The protocol for vaccine storage as outlined in the RACGP’s Standards for general practices, 5th edition GP Standard 6 – Maintaining vaccine potency advises practices must store vaccines in a reliable refrigerator that is capable of maintaining a stable temperature. It then goes on to outline the modifications necessary for modifying a domestic fridge to reduce the risk affecting the potency of vaccines. It can be expected that the RACGP will need to amend this advice if it is to align with new Guidelines.