Cold chain is the process of maintaining optimal conditions during the storage, transportation, and handling of vaccines, beginning at the vaccine manufacturer and ending with the administration of the vaccine to the patient.

A well-managed cold chain and an effective logistics system are essential for effective and safe immunization delivery. Improper functioning in this process can result in wasted opportunities to immunize due to shortage of vaccines, wasted vaccines, and patients receiving vaccines that do not cure them as intended or actually make them sick.

Cold Chain Management

That’s why every immunization program is required to access cold chain management needs periodically. As plans for new vaccines are implemented, additional equipment is often needed to handle the increase in storage requirements.

Cold chain is also important to maintain the potency of vaccines for the following reasons:

  • Careful planning of resource management is important as vaccines are expensive and can face shortage of supply. Loss of vaccine may cause cancellation in clinics, leading to loss of immunization opportunities.
  • Ineffective vaccine is uncomfortable on patients when it comes to revaccination and may result in loss of public confidence in clinical trials or the overall healthcare system.
  • Cold management ensures effective end product is used on end patients. Vaccine failures may result in occurrence or reemergence of vaccine preventable diseases.

Traditional vaccines, now a part of the EPI (the Expanded Program on Immunization), has saved 3 million lives per year. Cold chain ensures that effective vaccines remain available in substantial portions and are portable to where required in developing and developed countries.

However, rapid development of cold chain logistics is not without its shortcomings. Poor or unreliable sources of energy weaken the equipment and reduce its lifespan. Also, in remote areas, administration and routine maintenance may become difficult with self-hosted solutions, but are a requirement to avoid costly replacement or repair.

Also, without proper maintenance, the process may become outdated or broken, affecting immunization initiatives during supervisory visits and immunization programs. More problems that may arise include inadequate financing and lack of staff training for procuring new equipment or updating broken equipment.

Ensuring effective cold chain management

Any lab or medical facility needs to determine the need of cold chain, spare parts and repair tools to establish a procedure for procuring them. Pbmmi.com further highlights that effective cold chain distribution is an extension of the GMP (good manufacturing practice) environment that all biological products and drugs should adhere to, made effective by several health regulatory bodies. As a result, the process must be validated to ensure there is no negative impact to the quality, safety, or efficacy of the vaccine.

The process handling can also be outsourced to companies that are equipped to transfer individual or entire samples. Reliable companies will also take responsibility of carefully monitoring and controlling the temperature and other environmental conditions, as well as satisfy all regulatory requirements. Additionally, they will maintain total control of samples, which is important to keep errors and costs to a minimum.

However a medical facility or lab goes about it, they should ensure that cold chain maintenance, equipment and logistics are included in clinical programs and that plan support costs are financed properly and included in budgets. Partnering with someone to handle the process will effectively reduce the cost of hiring a chain of technicians.