Proper Storage, Handling, and Shipping of Influenza Vaccine

Proper vaccine storage and handling assures that the vaccine remains viable until administration. Keeping vaccines from becoming too cold or too warm is critical. Inactivated vaccines like influenza vaccines are especially sensitive to freezing temperatures.

Download PDF version formatted for print:
Proper Storage, Handling, and Shipping of Influenza Vaccine (PDF: 58KB/2 pages)

On this page:
Guidelines for protecting influenza vaccine from storage and handling mishaps
Transporting all influenza vaccine
Shipping all influenza vaccine
Take action on out-of-range temperatures!
Influenza vaccine manufacturers

Guidelines for protecting influenza vaccine from storage and handling mishaps

  • The correct storage unit helps to assure proper storage. Research has shown the dormitory style units with one exterior door are not appropriate for vaccine storage 'under any circumstances.' The preferred unit is a freezer-less refrigerator and a separate freezer. 
  • Store all influenza vaccine in the refrigerator at 35° to 46°F (2° to 8°C). Aim for 40°F (4°C).
  • Never expose influenza vaccine to temperatures 32°F (0°C) or less.
  • Store vaccine on the middle shelves and two to three inches from the walls of the refrigerator.
    • Don’t store vaccine on the top or floor of the refrigerator.
    • Keep vaccine away from the cold air vent in the refrigerator compartment.
    • Never store vaccine in the refrigerator door or drawers.
    • Remove crisper and snack drawers.
  • Keep ALL flu vaccines in their original boxes to protect them from light and for added insulation in the event of a power outage or mechanical failure.
  • Don’t pack the refrigerator too tightly; make sure there is room for air circulation.
  • Keep water bottles, jugs, or cold packs in the refrigerator to help maintain temperatures. Water bottles can be stored in the door and water jugs in the bottom of the unit. Mark waters bottles "Do Not Drink."
  • Manually check and record the refrigerator temperature twice a day on a temperature log– even if you have an electronic monitoring system.
  • Safeguard the refrigerator power supply.
    • Use an "in-use outlet cover" or "safety lock plug."
    • Place "Do Not Unplug" stickers on the refrigerator, power cord, and wall outlet. Place "Warning" stickers on the circuit breaker/fuse box. Stickers are available at no cost from MDH.
    • Have an emergency plan for storing, handling, and transporting vaccine in the event of a power failure, natural disaster, or mechanical failure or malfunction.

Transporting all influenza vaccine

Whether you are transporting the vaccine short distances or across the state, appropriate packing is a must to ensure the viability of the vaccine. Pack the vaccine as follows:

1. Use portable refrigerators, hard-sided or Styrofoam coolers with at least two-inch thick walls.
  • Don’t use thin-walled Styrofoam coolers, soft-sided coolers, or lunch bags found at grocery stores or gas stations.

Place cold packs (not frozen) on the bottom and sides of the cooler.

3. Place a minimum of two inches of insulating barrier over the cold packs (e.g., bubble wrap, brown packing paper, or newspaper).
  • Don't place vaccines directly on or next to cold packs.

Place influenza vaccines (in their original packaging) in a plastic bag on top of the insulating barrier.


Place a certified-calibrated thermometer on top of the vaccine.


Add another two-inch layer of insulating barrier.


Add another layer of cold packs.


Secure lid; tape if necessary.


Label the contents as "Perishable" or "Biologics" or "Vaccines."


While you are at an off-site clinic with vaccine, check and record the temperatures in the coolers hourly on a temperature log, at a minimum.

Image of how a flu vaccine cooler should be packed.

Shipping all influenza vaccine

If you are shipping vaccine across the state, special planning is needed.

  • Ship only unopened vaccine vials and packages of pre-filled syringes as required by Federal law.
  • The shipping time should not exceed 48 hours and the vaccine cannot be exposed to freezing temperatures at any time.
  • Check with the carrier(s) in your area to determine how long it will take for the vaccine to arrive at the intended destination.

Take action on out-of-range temperatures!

If temperatures fall out of range due to a storage or handling mishap (e.g., power outage, refrigerator door left open, vaccine left out on counter), take immediate action:

  • Determine the cause.
  • Adjust the thermostat, if necessary.
  • Monitor the temperature every 30 minutes until it stabilizes in the correct range.

If the temperature doesn't stabilize in the correct range within two hours:

  • Contact the vaccine coordinator.
  • Stop using the vaccine.
    • Mark the vaccine "Do Not Use" so staff won't inadvertently administer it.
    • Move the vaccine to a refrigerator that's maintaining the correct temperature – apart from other vaccines – until you can determine if it is viable. Do not throw it away!
  • Call the influenza vaccine manufacturer for guidance right away.
    • Make sure to ask to speak to the medical consultant or quality assurance staff.
    • Be ready to provide the temperature details, lot numbers, and expiration dates.
  • Document your actions.

Out-of-range temperatures for influenza vaccine

  • Below 35°F (2°C)
  • Above 46°F (8°C)

Influenza vaccine manufacturers

  • Sanofi Pasteur (Fluzone): 800-822-2463

  • Novartis Vaccine (Fluvirin): 877-683-4732
  • MedImmune (FluMist): 877-633-4411
  • GlaxoSmithKline (Fluarix and Flulaval): 866-475-8222
  • Merck (Afluria): 877-829-6372


MDH Immunization Program: 651-201-5503 or 1-800-657-3970

CDC-INFO line: 1-800-232-4636


Updated Thursday, 26-Sep-2013 15:07:23 CDT