Vaccine storage too often fails to meet standards

Mar 2012
New Hampshire
By correcting one potential error, the Ventura County Health Care Agency in California accidentally made another — and jeopardized vaccines given to thousands of people in the process.

In October 2017, county health officials, concerned that vaccines were getting too warm while being transported to clinics, changed their protocol. But a routine audit in November found that the ice packs they were using may have frozen some of the medicines and lowered their effectiveness. The agency then offered to reimmunize everyone who had received a vaccine that was delivered in faulty packaging.

Ventura County is far from the only case of vaccines feared to be ineffective reaching patients. In the past 13 months alone, 117 children received possibly compromised vaccines against polio, meningococcal disease and the human papillomavirus at an Indian Health Service clinic in Oklahoma City because of improper refrigeration. Similar issues with temperature control prompted a health clinic in Indianapolis to send letters offering to revaccinate 1,600 people last January, according to local news reports.

The federal government sets standards on the storage of vaccines. However, not all health care providers are accountable under those guidelines.

Vaccines are extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations. In some cases, exposing a vaccine to the wrong environment once can effectively kill live viruses and harm proteins in the vaccines, said Tan. Generally, temperature problems occur during transportation of medicines.

Vaccine storage too often fails to meet standards