Proper Storage, Handling, and Shipping of Influenza Vaccine

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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

Guidelines for protecting influenza vaccine from storage and handling mishaps

  • Research has shown dormitory style units with one exterior door are not appropriate for vaccine storage under any circumstances. The preferred unit is a stand-alone 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 shelf 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.
  • Place vaccines 2 to 3 inches away from the walls to 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 in the bottom of the unit. Mark water 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.
  • It is recommended that the minimum and maximum temperatures be reviewed and documented every morning.
  • 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 a written 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.
  2. Place conditioned frozen packs on the bottom and sides of the cooler. To condition frozen packs leave them at room temperature for one to two hours, until the edges have defrosted and they look like they have been sweating. Frozen packs that are not conditioned can freeze vaccines.
  3. Place a minimum of two inches of insulating barrier over the cold packs (e.g., bubble wrap, brown packing paper, or newspaper).
  4. Don’t place vaccines directly on or next to cold packs.
  5. Place influenza vaccines (in their original packaging) in a plastic bag on top of the insulating barrier.
  6. Place a certified-calibrated thermometer on top of the vaccine.
  7. Add another two-inch layer of insulating barrier.
  8. Add another layer of conditioned packs.
  9. Secure lid; tape if necessary.
  10. Label the contents as "Perishable" or "Biologics" or "Vaccines."
  11. While you are at an off-site clinic with vaccine check and record the temperatures in the coolers on a temperature log hourly, 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, if possible
  • 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 manufacturer for guidance. The package insert should contain a phone number.
  • 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)

Updated Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 01:53PM