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5 Common Cold Chain Temperature Monitoring Mistakes & How to Avoid Them 

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Written by: Arielle Hamp
June 14, 2022

What do you know about the accuracy of your cold chain temperature monitoring process? Vaccine temperatures can be tricky to track but armed with the right tools can make you a pro! 

In today’s article, you’ll learn the top 5 mistakes in pharmaceutical temperature monitoring and how to avoid costly errors, simply and effectively. 

 

Are you guilty of these mistakes?

Many businesses with temperature-sensitive products struggle to keep up with multiple cold chain units (fridge, freezers, coolers) and daily data logs. They are recording temperatures with pen & paper which is tedious and inefficient. 

 

guilty of these

Under this method:

  • Data gets missed, 
  • Temperatures fluctuate unnoticed, and
  • Power failures are left undiscovered for long periods.

A mismanaged cold chain unit can lead to thousands of dollars of spoiled products. For pharmacies, this is even more worrisome since vaccine temperatures can alter the effectiveness of each dose, impacting patient health and safety 1.

Here are 5 common mistakes you need to know to avoid product waste and improve your cold chain monitoring.

5 Common Cold Chain Monitoring Mistakes

 

  1. 1.
    Unnoticed Open Doors

 

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Refrigerated vaccines must be kept at +2°C to +8°C (+35°F to +46°F). A door left open or not correctly sealed affects the temperature in a unit and exposes vaccines to light, which, according to Public Health Agency of Canada, can reduce the potency of some vaccines.  

What to do instead  

Make sure nothing is obstructing the doors of your cold chain unit and use an alert system.   

This can help you identify any doors left ajar before they compromise vaccine potency.  

 

 

 

  1. 2.
    Restocking Immediately after New Purchases/Repairs
While you may be eager to move your inventories to a new or recently repaired cold chain unit, those temperatures can take two to seven days to stabilize. Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada for details.

Instead, it is best to avoid placing your products into the fridge or freezer immediately until temperatures are recorded within the recommended range for two consecutive days1.

Do it faster 

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Instead of monitoring the minimum and maximum temperatures of these units multiple times a day for up to seven days, some pharmacies are adopting digital temperature monitoring.
 

  • With digital temperature monitoring, you’ll know precisely when it’s safe to restock your new or repaired unit without having to check repeatedly.
 

  1. 3.
    Not Using a DIGITAL Temperature Monitoring Device

Every pharmacy fridge and freezer needs a temperature monitoring device (TMD), such as a thermometer or data logger, but many aren’t digital. Without a digital TMD, you cannot know precisely what temperatures your unit reached or for how long.

“An accurate temperature history that reflects actual vaccine temperatures is critical for protecting your vaccines. Investing in a reliable device is less expensive than replacing vaccines wasted due to the loss of potency that comes from storage at out-of-range temperatures.”

Source: CDC, 2022

Knowing the exact temperature and duration of the exposure during a cold chain break helps determine a product’s viability. That information can be the difference between administrating safe or unsafe vaccines… or needing to toss out perfectly good medicine out of caution.

According to the CDC, pharmacies should use digital TMDs with the following features: 

  • Alarm for out-of-range temperatures
  • Provides detailed data on current and historical temperatures
  • Low-battery indicator
  • Accuracy of ± 0.5° C (± 1° F)
  • Logging interval that can be programmed by the user to monitor and record temperatures at least every 30 minutes 
 

  1. 4.
    Not Having a Plan in Case of Power Outage
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If you aren’t prepared, power disruptions can be catastrophic. Failed cold chain equipment or power loss can destroy the entire vaccine supply.

Follow Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendations: 

Make sure you have procedures in place if power disruptions do occur. Secure a secondary location to store your vaccines in the event of a power outage or cold chain break, and:
 

  • Consider installing a temperature alarm with 24 hour and 7 days a week monitoring, especially for large vaccine inventories
  • Have a dedicated circuit for the cold chain unit
  • Do not use multi-outlet power cords
  • Use a safety-lock plug or an outlet cover to prevent accidental unplugging
  • Post “DO NOT UNPLUG” warning signs at outlets to alert others not to unplug the unit
  • Label circuit breakers to warn others not to turn off power to the unit
  • Avoid using outlets that can be activated by a wall switch
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Power supply monitors from RCI

 

Contact sales to learn more

 

 

  1. 5.
    Submitting Reports with Missing Information
Pharmacies are required to check and record the temperatures of vaccine storage units at LEAST twice daily.
 
The data is compiled into reports that must show:

  • Minimum/maximum temperatures
  • Dates + times recorded
  • Name of the person who checked and recorded the temperature
  • Any actions taken after the temperature excursion occurred

 
To avoid compliance fees, pharmacies must take precautions to minimize human error. When a cold chain break occurs, the vaccine exposure duration and temperatures are used to assess its viability. In this case, hand-written logs don’t offer the best protection.
 
You can take it one step further by using automated reporting instead! Get data reports sent monthly, weekly, or daily through automated software or desktop applications. 
 

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Maintaining temperature monitoring and frequent data logs can be tedious and ineffective. When pharmacies use digital temperature monitoring, they save time, improve efficiencies, and protect their vaccine inventory from fluctuating temperatures and power outages.

 

 

Learn more:  https://rivercityinnovations.ca/pharmacy/ 

1 CDC, 2022: Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit