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Storage and Handling

Excessive heat or cold can reduce vaccine potency. You must maintain optimal vaccine storage temperatures as soon as the vaccine arrives at your office up to the time the vaccine is administered to a patient. Review the policies below, in the Routine Vaccine Management Plan and in the PDPH Storage & Handling Guide.

If you encounter a problem with vaccine storage & handling, immediately contact your site’s Vaccine Coordinator and the Philadelphia Immunization Program (see right for contact information).

[lsvr_accordion][lsvr_accordion_item title=”Vaccine Storage Units”]

All Storage Units

All vaccine storage units must demonstrate that they can maintain vaccine storage temperatures for 2 weeks prior to vaccine storage.

Dorm-style units are prohibited for vaccine storage – even temporary storage.


Fill the refrigerator door, floor and top shelf with water bottles. Refer to this diagram.


Fill the freezer door and top shelf with cold packs. Refer to this diagram.[/lsvr_accordion_item][lsvr_accordion_item title=”Temperature Monitoring”]Refrigerators: Maintain 35 to 46°F (2 to 8°C). Aim for 40°F (6°C).

Freezers: Maintain 5°F (-15°C) or colder. Aim for 0°F (-18°C).

All vaccines are refrigerated except Varicella vaccine. Varicella is the only vaccine which is stored in the freezer.

Record storage unit temperatures twice daily using the “Temperature Log Forms” below. Keep records on file for 3 years.

Temperature Monitoring Forms

Temperature Monitoring Resources

Approved Vaccine Thermometers

Dial and mercury-filled thermometers are not approved for vaccine temperature monitoring. Only use certified calibrated thermometers.

[/lsvr_accordion_item][lsvr_accordion_item title=”Receiving Vaccine Shipments”]Staff accepting packages from vaccine shipping sources should know the importance of immediate vaccine storage and should know the name of their office’s Vaccine Coordinator.

Upon receiving a vaccine shipment from McKesson, immediately check the 3M MonitorMark™ Time Temperature Indicator, TransTracker® C FREEZEmarker® Indiciator and/or ColdMark™ Freeze Indicator. These tools will show if the vaccine has maintained proper temperature during transportation to your site. Refer to the documents below for more information.

Receiving a Vaccine Shipment

Vaccine Shipment Resources

[/lsvr_accordion_item][lsvr_accordion_item title=”Separating Private, VFC and VFAAR Vaccine”]Private, VFC and VFAAR vaccine should not be interchanged. The VFC and VFAAR programs will verify vaccine accountability during quality assurance visits.

Clearly label VFC and VFAAR vaccine to distinguish it from privately purchased vaccine. VFC and VFAAR vaccine can be labeled as it is unpacked and placed into the storage unit. “VFC” and “VFAAR” stickers are available at no charge upon request from the Philadelphia Immunization Program and may be affixed to cartons as the vaccine is unpacked.

If you cannot check and label your VFC and VFAAR shipment immediately, place the entire contents into a plastic bag and place the bag into proper storage. Do not unpack the vaccine between patients; it is very easy for the unpacking process to be interrupted and for vaccine to be left out and forgotten.
[/lsvr_accordion_item][lsvr_accordion_item title=”Emergency Vaccine Management”]In case of vaccine temperature excursion or emergency (natural disaster and/or power outage), immediately contact your site’s Vaccine Coordinator and refer to your Emergency Response Plan (posted near the vaccine storage unit). Then contact the Immunization Program (see right sidebar).

Complete Emergency Response Guide

[/lsvr_accordion_item][lsvr_accordion_item title=”Alarm Systems”]Providers who store over $15,000 worth of VFC vaccines in their storage units are strongly advised to invest in an alarm system that monitors the unit 24 hours a day and notifies the provider of any fluctuation in temperature outside of the recommended range.

Providers storing vaccines worth $15,000 or more who chose not to install alarm systems for storage units must understand the risks of foregoing such protection and agree to be held financially responsible for reimbursement of vaccines wasted as a result of an event causing out-of-range temperatures (power outage, doors left open, refrigeration unit malfunction, etc).[/lsvr_accordion_item][lsvr_accordion_item title=”Storage and Handling Resources”]Learn more about vaccine storage and handling requirements and recommendations from these trusted sources: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

More Storage & Handling Resources