Vaccine Safety: Is Your Team Up To Snuff?

By Steven Porter

Throughout the month of August, federal healthcare agencies have been encouraging Americans of all ages to get vaccinated for a variety of preventable illnesses as part of National Immunization Awareness Month. The annual campaign, which coincides with back-to-school preparations for many children, is targeted at the general public, but it should serve as a reminder for healthcare professionals as well.

For starters, all healthcare workers in the U.S. should get an influenza vaccination annually, according to the CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. That includes therapists, pharmacists, lab personnel, and others who might not expect to come into physical contact with patients on a daily basis.

Beyond having an adequately immunized staff, doctor offices, clinics, hospitals, and all other facilities that handle vaccines need to ensure that the way they’re storing vaccines keeps with best practices. That means protecting vaccine supplies from temperatures that are too hot or too cold.

“Maintaining vaccines at the correct temperature is critical to maintaining potency and protection,” Andrew T. Kroger, MD, MPH, a medical officer for the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and respiratory Diseases, wrote in an expert commentary. “Vaccines must be stored properly from the time they are manufactured until they are administered to your patients.”

The consequences of failing to store vaccines at the proper temperatures (and allegedly reporting inaccurate temperature logs) can include some hefty costs, financial and otherwise—as Michael Bleiman, MD, and Southern Ocean Pediatrics and Family Medicine in Manahawkin, New Jersey, have learned. The practice was suspended from the Vaccines for Children program after as many as 900 children were exposed to potentially compromised vaccines.

For more on Bleiman’s story and vaccine safety, see the September edition of HCPro’s Medical Environment Update newsletter. For free resources on proper storage, handling, and documentation, check out the Immunization Action Coalition website.