What is important about storing and handling vaccines?

All live vaccines (BCG, polio, measles, MMR vaccines) must be kept correctly stored or they will be damaged. Sunlight, the incorrect temperature and antiseptics damage vaccines. In a clinic, all should be stored in a refrigerator between 2 and 8 °C (not in the freezer compartment) and kept in a cool bag during handling. Only polio vaccine can be safely kept frozen during storage for long periods. Freezing damages other vaccines. Live vaccines, which have been frozen in error, have a granular appearance with a deposit on standing, and must be discarded.

Vaccines rapidly lose their effectiveness if they are not kept cold.

Avoid direct sunlight and do not use alcohol or ether to clean vials of live vaccines or the skin as this may kill the vaccine. If necessary, the skin can be cleaned with soap and water. Only draw up the vaccine into the syringe when you are ready to give it. The vaccines often come in brown vials to protect them from the light. All vaccines have an expiry date, and must not be used after the expiry date.

Polio vaccine has a heat sensitive spot on each vial. Normally the dot is white but it darkens if the vaccine is not kept cool correctly. If the dot is the colour of the surrounding circle, or darker, it is damaged and must not be used.

Polio vaccine vial monitor

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