Improper vaccine storage a growing problem, report finds

In the last few years, thousands of patients have been notified that they received potentially compromised vaccines because they had been stored improperly, a Kaiser Health News report reveals.

One example that affected 23,000 patients involved the Ventura County (Calif.) Health Care Agency. In October 2017, county health officials were concerned that their vaccines were getting too warm while in transport to clinics. To mitigate the issue, they began using ice packs while transporting vaccines. However, a routine audit found that the ice packs they were using may have frozen some of the medicines, thus lowering their effectiveness. After the report came out, the agency offered to revaccinate everyone who had received a vaccine.

But Ventura County is not the only case of improper storage leading to potentially compromised vaccines, according to the report.

In the last 13 months, 117 children received potentially compromised vaccines against polio, human papillomavirus and meningococcal disease due to improper refrigeration. Similar issues with temperature fluctuations prompted a clinic in Indianapolis to notify 1,600 patients that they should be revaccinated.

These examples follow a 2015 research report by the CDC that found 23 percent of the vaccination errors reported to the government agency involved the improper storage or use of expired vaccines — both big supply chain issues.

A separate 2012 report by the inspector general at HHS found that about 34 of the 45 healthcare providers sampled exposed vaccines to improper temperatures for at least five cumulative hours.

Since the reports, the CDC has mandated such safeguards as recording the minimum and maximum temperature in vaccine storage unit daily. However, these requirements only apply to the Vaccines for Children's program, which offers drugs at no cost for kids from low-income families. Medical facilities outside of this program, like pharmacies and private practices, have no comparable federal oversight.

Read the full report here.

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