How Industrial Generators Improve Cold Chain Management
The advent of vaccines has made a massive positive impact on society. Diseases that used to ravage populations like measles, smallpox and rubella have been wiped out or reduced to a controllable level. Even the most recent pandemic is decreasing worldwide with help from vaccines.
Vaccines help humankind enjoy a safer today and the hope for an even healthier future. But many people are unaware of all the work that goes into creating and maintaining vaccines. Consistent temperatures are key throughout the entire vaccine process. Even the smallest change in temperature can affect a vaccine’s potential for successful immunization. For this reason, the cold chain of vaccines is essential for keeping vaccines at the correct temperature while they are in your care.
What Is the Vaccine Cold Chain?
Every vaccine and its diluents need a specific temperature to remain stable, and this temperature varies depending on the vaccine. Some vaccines demand subzero temperatures to remain effective, while other vaccines should always stay above these extreme, cold temperatures. On the other side of the spectrum, higher temperatures can damage some vaccines, and other vaccines have a higher resistance to heat. Most often, vaccines require cold temperatures provided by a process called “cold chain management.”
Vaccines need cold chain management to stay effective and stable throughout their creation, transportation, storage, delivery and administration. The appropriate temperature range for successful cold chain management falls within 35 degrees to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Once a health care professional administers a vaccine to a patient, the cold chain management process for that dose of the vaccine has reached its conclusion.
Cold chain management is a long process that demands consistency, teamwork and the right cold chain equipment. Only when each party carries out their role can successful vaccine distribution occur. The vaccine cold chain has several requirements, including:
- The right equipment: Equipment encompasses storage refrigerators, thermometers, cold boxes and ice packs, to name a few. Each element is crucial throughout the cold chain management process.
- Refrigerators and freezers: This equipment is essential for cold chain vaccine storage. Ensure you have dedicated refrigerators or freezers to hold all your vaccine doses without crowding.
- Maintenance: The equipment you use for cold chain management needs proper maintenance to ensure dependability and usability at all times.
- Avoidance of power failures: To meet vaccine storage requirements, you’ll need to maintain consistent power to your refrigerators, freezers and other powered equipment. This makes backup generators a robust solution to your operation.
What Are the Risks of Cold Chain Failure?
Uninterrupted cold chain management is necessary for the health and well-being of people around the world suffering from various diseases and illnesses. Accordingly, cold chain failure is a critical occurrence that can lead to dire consequences. What constitutes a cold chain failure? With a rigid process like cold chain management, even a small hiccup in the system can be detrimental.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that every vaccine must remain within one degree Fahrenheit of its recommended temperature. This is a small window for error and essentially demands that you meet the recommended vaccine cold chain temperature at all times and at all costs. Failing to do so could result in wasted vaccines, which leads to two major outcomes:
- Fewer lives saved: Vaccines stop the spread of the disease and save lives. The smallest shift in temperatures during the cold chain management process can lead to a spoiled batch of vaccines, leading to fewer lives saved. This sad fact is especially crucial in time-sensitive cases when lives are hanging in the balance. The risk of being unable to save lives is the most important reason for the cold chain of vaccines. Your ability to avoid cold chain failure can be the difference between life and death.
- Increased expenditures: Government bodies and research facilities put a lot of money into the research, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines. Much of this money comes from taxpayer dollars. While sunk financial costs are a secondary risk compared to the loss of life, it is still a strong motivator for successful vaccine cold chain management. Avoiding cold chain failure opens budgets for greater researching and manufacturing opportunities, leading to more available vaccines. Less setbacks lead to more successful vaccines produced.
Types of Vaccine Refrigerators
Refrigerators and freezers play a key role in the cold chain of vaccines. The following list contains freezer types you could use for cold chain vaccine storage:
- Medical-grade vapor-compression: Medical-grade vapor-compression refrigerators use heavy insulation, cooling fans and temperature monitoring equipment to maintain proper conditions for vaccine doses. They need a connection to the electrical grid and require a dedicated backup power source to function during a power outage. Many repair technicians are available for medical-grade vapor-compression refrigerators, as this is a common form of refrigeration in the medical industry.
- Solar-powered vapor-compression: Solar-powered vapor-compression refrigerators can exist apart from an electrical power grid by converting sunlight into the energy needed to power their cooling components. This ability ensures the vaccines stay at the proper temperature despite power outages, but solar-powered refrigerators need plenty of sunlight to work. These refrigerators are also a larger investment upfront and are more difficult to maintain. Only trained professionals can maintain solar-powered vapor-compression refrigerators for vaccines.
- Battery storage solar systems: Solar-powered refrigerators can exist apart from the grid, but they demand sunlight, which can be fickle depending on the weather. Battery storage solar systems store energy in a dedicated battery to allow the refrigerator to continue working for a set period even when sunlight is unavailable.
- Direct drive solar systems: Direct drive solar systems lack a battery and convert sunlight directly into usable energy for the refrigerator. These refrigerators have a greater holdover time, which is a refrigerator’s ability to maintain a set internal temperature despite a lack of sunlight powering the cooling mechanisms.
- Ice-lined vapor compression: Ice-lined vapor-compression refrigerators have a long holdover time, reaching lengths of at least 20 hours and up to several days. This extended holdover time is possible due to ice lining the cabinet of the storage area to maintain internal temperatures longer after the fridge loses power.
How to Mitigate the Risks of Vaccine Loss
To invest in a successful vaccine cold chain process and save lives, you should create a vaccine storage contingency plan. Having one will ensure your vaccines stay safe and fresh while they await transportation and distribution to areas in need. What does a proper vaccine storage contingency plan look like? Design yours to include the following attributes:
- Train staff to deal with emergencies: Your staff should have a solid understanding of the cold chain process and proper training to deal with emergencies that could threaten the integrity of the vaccines. Emergencies like power outages pose a major threat to your vaccines in cold storage, so be sure to train your staff to know what to do if such an event arises.
- Engage in proper data recording and reporting: Governing bodies and the people involved in the next stage of the cold chain process rely on you to keep accurate data while the vaccines are in your care. Record and report the status of vaccines, including any temperature fluctuations or abnormalities. This data could be essential in saving lives later in the cold chain of vaccines.
- Keep functioning temperature alarms and monitors: Keeping a consistent temperature is key to the cold chain process. For that reason, you need functioning temperature alarms and monitors. Temperature monitors will give you a visual reading of the refrigerator’s current temperature. Alarms will signal you when temperatures change or approach dangerous levels.
- Ensure your source of power can remain uninterrupted: You must avoid cold chain failure at all costs, including making sure your source of power stays consistent at all times. For this to be successful, you’ll need a backup power supply to keep your refrigerators running even when the electrical grid goes down.
Consider Standby Generators as Part of a Vaccine Storage Contingency Plan
Standby generators are a key component of every vaccine storage contingency plan. A standby generator will ensure your refrigerators and freezers can keep running during a power outage or electrical grid malfunction. A backup power source for vaccines is essential because once the power goes out, the clock starts ticking for the vaccine’s holdover time. Depending on the refrigerator, the vaccines may have a short time limit until they start going bad and become unusable.
Non-solar-powered refrigerators depend on electricity to power their cooling compressors. This constant supply of electricity is what makes proper cooling possible. Refrigerators and freezers contain plenty of insulation to keep cold temperatures in and ambient temperatures out, but this insulation alone lacks the ability to keep the vaccine doses at the correct temperature. A steady electrical connection is essential.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), medical institutions need a backup generator to stay operational in the event of a power outage. This mandate appears in NFPA 110: Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems. This regulation is paramount in keeping vaccines safe and effective. When you connect your storage facility or medical laboratory to a standby generator, you can enjoy a steady power connection at all times. If the grid goes down, your generator will turn on immediately to provide power to your vaccine refrigerators.
Voltage regulators are another helpful piece of equipment that can enhance your vaccine storage contingency plan. Voltage irregularities can threaten the stability and functionality of your refrigerators and freezers. A surge of electricity can damage refrigerator components, affecting the fridge’s internal temperature. Install voltage regulators to make sure the electricity your vaccine storage refrigerators receive is always at a consistent voltage.
Maintaining a Generator Used for Medical Supply Storage
A standby generator is a critical part of your vaccine storage contingency plan. You should make sure your backup generator is in good working condition so it can turn on without issues the next time the power goes out. Use proper maintenance practices to keep your standby generator ready for action at any time. Here are some tips for maintaining your vaccine storage facility’s backup generator:
- Create an emergency preparedness plan: Your vaccine storage facility needs an emergency preparedness plan to keep managers, employees and vaccines safe during emergencies including power outages. Part of your emergency preparedness plan should be to maintain your generator so you can know it will work when the grid goes down.
- Schedule generator inspections: Regular inspections are crucial in keeping your standby generator operational. Inspections will reveal if any component of your facility’s generator needs repair or replacement. The CDC recommends yearly service inspections to keep your generator operational for years to come. Even if you go years without a power outage at your facility, these inspections are crucial in preparing for the possibility of emergencies.
- Test your generator: The CDC recommends quarterly testing of standby generators. Four times per year, test your generator to make sure it works. This will also give your generator some time to run, which is good for keeping its components lubricated and operational. Machines like generators can develop problems without occasional use.
- Use fresh fuel in your generator: Your generator’s fuel will expire after several months to a year, depending on conditions. Fuel evaporation, water accumulation and bacteria growth can all affect your generator’s fuel. If you try running your generator with spoiled fuel, you could accidentally cause damage, leading to expensive repairs. Use a fuel stabilizer to extend the life of your generator’s fuel and avoid spoiled fuel at all costs.
Woodstock Power Generators Can Help with Cold Chain Management
Woodstock Power has the generators you need to complete your vaccine storage contingency plan. Our inventory of commercial generators includes nationally recognized brands at a fraction of the cost. You can enjoy peace of mind knowing your vaccine storage can make it through a power outage thanks to a high-quality generator backing you up. Backup generators for hospitals and health care facilities are essential, and you need one you can rely on.
Buying a brand new generator can be expensive. At Woodstock Power, we carry new overstock generators or lightly used generators that can meet your energy needs while fitting into your budget. And we work with contractors in your area for convenient service installation so you can focus on running your vaccine storage facility or health care center. Let the professionals handle your generator delivery and installation needs.
Contact us online today for more information about our generators for vaccine storage.