American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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A primer in safe vaccine management

From the July/August ACP Internist, copyright © 2010 by the American College of Physicians

Lock up the drugs and put the vaccines in the fridge. It’s common sense, right? Yet all too often, practices make common errors that risk patient safety, result in regulatory non-compliance, and potentially cost money. These easy tips can be implemented in your practice to make sure that you keep your patients, employees and vaccines safe.

  • Cross-train more than one staff member in vaccine handling and storage. Make sure there is always someone there who knows how to handle the vaccine when it arrives, how to store it properly, and what to do with it in the event of a power outage.
  • Store vaccines according to the directions. Put them in the center part of the fridge. Be extremely cautious about storing the vials in drawers and doors, as temperatures in these areas are more likely to vary or otherwise not meet the storage requirements.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is working properly by using a certified thermometer, checking the temperature of both the refrigerator and the freezer in the morning and again at the end of the day, and logging the temperatures. Also make sure the door seals properly each time you close it. Don’t just slam the door shut and assume that it has closed securely.
  • Do not store food and drinks in the same refrigerator. This practice results in frequent opening of the door, creating a greater chance for temperature instability and excessive exposure to light. It may also result in spills and contamination inside the compartment. It also can violate OSHA and other work safety regulations.
  • Know the rules regarding sample distribution in your state. States have different rules regarding dispensing, record keeping, and so on. Your state medical society is a good place to find out the rules in your area.
  • All samples should be logged in with the name of the drug, the control/lot number of the sample, the expiration date, the number of samples being received, and the initials of the staff member processing the samples.
  • All samples should be stored in a secure area that can be locked when the practice is closed. Controlled drug samples, if you have any, should be further protected at all times.
  • Samples should be logged out with the following information: patient name, prescriber name, date, drug and dose, sample control/lot number, number of samples given, expiration date of the sample, and the initials of the staff person who has retrieved the sample. This information can be vitally important in the event of a drug recall.
  • Check all samples monthly. Remove and properly dispose of expired samples. Check with the pharmaceutical rep or the FDA website for how to dispose of each medication properly.

These tips are all simple to accomplish. For more information on vaccine safety and medication storage, visit the CDC or FDA websites. For a vaccine administration log, more detailed vaccine safety tips, vaccine information sheets, and related signs for the clinical areas of your office, go to the Center for Practice Improvement and Innovation’s web page.

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