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Routine Maintenance & Troubleshooting for Vaccine Storage Units

Posted on Mar 27, 2019 by Miranda Schroeder


Conducting regular maintenance on your vaccine storage units is essential for keeping them in operation and giving them a long usable life. The CDC Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit gives great recommendations on how to properly maintain your vaccine storage units. The toolkit also provides instructions on how to troubleshoot equipment problems and handle alarms.

Regular Maintenance of Vaccine Storage Units and Temperature Monitoring Devices

Storage units and TMDs need regular maintenance to ensure proper operation.

Never allow vaccines to remain in a malfunctioning unit for an extended period. If you believe your unit has failed, implement your emergency SOPs.

Conduct routine maintenance for all vaccine storage units and related equipment so that your equipment functions at maximum efficiency.

  • Check seals and door hinges.
  • Clean coils and other components per manufacturer direction.
  • Defrost manual-defrost freezers.
  • Clean the interior of each unit to discourage bacterial and fungal growth. Do so quickly to minimize the risk of a temperature excursion.
  • Test any backup generator quarterly and have it serviced annually.

Troubleshooting Equipment Problems

Adjusting Storage Unit Temperatures

Storage unit temperatures may need to be adjusted over time. In some situations, thermostats may need to be reset in summer and winter, depending on room temperature.

  • Temperature adjustments should:
  • Be made by the primary or alternate vaccine coordinator, based on information from the TMD and temperature monitoring log.
  • Be done at a time that is not during a busy workday when the unit door is frequently opened and closed.

Remember that temperatures within any storage unit will vary slightly, even with normal use. Therefore, before making any adjustment:

  • Confirm the unit is securely plugged into a power source.
  • Check the temperature inside the storage unit.
  • Wait 30 minutes, without opening the door, to allow the temperature to stabilize and then check it again to determine if the thermostat should be adjusted.

If you believe there could be an issue with your TMD, use your backup device to confirm the temperature. If you confirm that an adjustment is needed:

  1. Refer to the owner’s manual for detailed instructions.
  2. Make a small adjustment toward a warmer or colder setting by turning the thermostat knob slowly to avoid going outside the correct temperature range.
  3. Once the adjustment is made, allow the temperature inside the unit to stabilize for 30 minutes without opening the door.
  4. Recheck the temperature.
  5. Repeat these steps as needed until the temperature has stabilized at around 5° C (40° F) for a refrigerator or between -50° C and -15° C (-58° F and +5° F) for a freezer.
  6. Consider placing additional water bottles in the unit to help improve temperature stability

Do not leave vaccines in a storage unit that does not maintain temperatures within the recommended range. If you are unable to stabilize the temperature in your unit within the required range, or temperatures in the unit are consistently at the extreme high or low end of the range, your vaccine supply is at high risk. Use your SOPs to identify an alternative unit with appropriate temperatures and enough storage space until the primary unit can be repaired or replaced.

If you are using a combination storage unit, note that adjustments to the freezer temperature can adversely affect the refrigerator compartment temperature, possibly resulting in frozen vaccines in the refrigerator.

Repeated Alarm Alerts

If the temperature alarm goes off repeatedly, do not disconnect the alarm until you have determined and addressed the cause. Do basic checks of the unit door, power supply, and thermostat settings. If the alarm continues to trigger or the temperature remains out of range, transfer vaccines to a backup unit as directed by your SOPs. A repair technician should check your equipment to determine the need for repair or replacement.

At Helmer Scientific, we have an experienced team of individuals who can help you troubleshoot  your vaccine storage units. We pride ourselves on providing high quality, personalized support for our customers.

Our Ultimate Guide to Vaccine Storage is packed with everything you need to know regarding vaccine storage equipment including the right style refrigerators and freezers to use, how to correctly monitor temperatures continuously, how to handle temperature excursions, and lastly, how to maintain your vaccine storage units.

Browse our Pharmacy Refrigerator Selection »

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Miranda Schroeder

Written by Miranda Schroeder

Helmer designs, manufactures, and sells reliable medical-grade refrigeration. Miranda specializes in the pharmacy segment in regards to proper cold storage for refrigerated and frozen medications and vaccines.

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