Modern medicine relied on many different moving parts to keep people healthy and to run public medical centers like hospitals and urgent care centers, and one of the more mundane, but no less important, aspects of modern medicine is the temperature-sensitive storage of fragile biological items such as vaccines and lab samples. A lab refrigerator is simple enough, but it may be critical toward keeping tissue or bacterial samples alive and useful, and of course for storing vaccines. What considerations should go towards purchasing a lab refrigerator? What features will a vaccine freezer have? Should a scientific freezer be a civilian model for storing food? These are questions that any lab technician or vaccine expert should consider for their storage needs.
Vaccines date back to 1796, just over two centuries ago. In that year, Edward Jenner conceived of a new immunity procedure he named the “arm to arm” inoculation, used against smallpox. He created this vaccine by taking material from an infected person’s blister and injecting the material into another person’s arm, and often, cowpox patients were used for this procedure. And vaccine technology has only grown since; by the late 1940s, large-scale vaccine production had begun, and in that decade, vaccines for smallpox, Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (the whooping cough) were the norm, and in the years since, more and more viruses have had vaccines made for them. Today, vaccines are common procedures and they save many lives. For just one example, between the years 2000 and 2014, the numbers of deaths due to measles decreased from 546,800 to 114,900, which is a 79% decrease overall. And speaking more broadly, it has been calculated that vaccines, as a whole, prevent 2.5 million unnecessary deaths every single year. How can a lab refrigerator help contribute to the continued use of vaccines across the United States?
A Vaccine Freezer
Buying the right hardware for any hospital or research lab is critical to giving vaccines and bacterial samples a place to be kept safely, since they are fragile and sensitive to changes in temperature, and being stored at the wrong temperature can ruin them. A medical grade refrigerator is often the key to proper storage, and finding a lab refrigerator is something that any lab technician should take seriously.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines stating that refrigerated vaccines must be stored at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or -5 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the CDC has also said that frozen vaccines should be stored at a lower temperature: -58 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, which translates to -50 and -15 degrees Celsius. Maintaining these proper temperatures is vital, and a lab refrigerator will have the temperature regulation to maintain it. By contrast, a more civilian model of fridge or freezer meant for home use will have serious fluctuations of temperature inside, often the result of the door opening and closing often and the device not having need to store items at a very specific temperature. This could easily ruin regular or frozen vaccines by exposing them to high temperatures that ruin them.
When looking for a vaccine refrigerator, lab technicians should factor in the actual storage space that they have, such as on counters, racks, or the floor itself, as well as the number of vaccines that they will be storing. A fridge unit too big may not fit into the storage space set aside from it, and it may be too expensive. A unit too small simply cannot hold all of the vaccines needed, so the right dimensions and storage space should be found for a model of fridge chosen. What is more, the purchaser may also look up customer reviews to determine which models are the most effective for their price, and this can help buyers avoid a bad deal. Any hospital or research lab will have space made for an intended new lab refrigerator, such as on the floor for bigger units, or on countertops, tables, or even wall-mounted racks for smaller models that hold a more modest number of vaccines at a time. Smaller labs, for example, may invest in small units that can be mounted on shelves, while a large hospital may have entire rooms for massive vaccine fridges to be set up.