There are different types of vaccines on the market, with varying needs for identification and cold storage. The ongoing pandemic has illustrated the need to accurately identify vaccines using vaccine warning labels and ensure a stable cold chain is in place to deliver these vaccines from manufacturing to where they are administered.
Types of Vaccines
There are currently two types of vaccines on the market, standard viral vaccines and the new generation mRNA vaccines. Viral vaccines typically use a weakened/attenuated virus or purified signature virus proteins that are introduced into the patient using a viral vector. These vaccines can induce a robust immune response, which can engender lifelong immunity to the disease with just one or two doses. Another advantage these vaccines confer is they are easier and safer to store. This makes distribution, handling, and administration simple to organize logistically.
mRNA vaccines work slightly differently, as they don’t contain any of the actual virus. They contain genetic material that encodes for a specific viral protein that is translated into viral protein directly inside human cells. These vaccines can activate an immune response using smaller amounts of vaccine and are far safer, given their lack of viral load. However, so far, these vaccines require much colder storage conditions to remain stable, and given they’ve only just been approved for use, we still don’t know how long their conferred immunity will last.
Vaccine Warning Labels
Viral vector vaccines are also called refrigerated vaccines and are optimally stored between 2°C and 8°C. As such, they are best identified using vaccine refrigerator labels that withstand deep-freeze conditions and low-temperature environments typically encountered during short or long-term storage and transport. This also applies to any vaccine syringe labels used during administration. Protection from light may also be a consideration, but only for certain vaccines. Unlike frozen vaccines, they must never be exposed to freezing conditions as they can become inactive or lose potency.
There are currently only two mRNA vaccines approved for use. The mRNA vaccines recently released by Pfizer and Moderna are also termed frozen vaccines and should be kept between –15°C and –50°C. The storage conditions for the two vary slightly, with the Pfizer vaccine requiring colder temperatures during storage. However, they both still need vaccine storage labels that will withstand ultra-low temperature conditions. This is due to the fact that mRNA requires lower temperatures to remain functional. Ideally, thermal-transfer printable cryogenic vaccine warning labels should be used as they will not fail, peel, or wrinkle under ultra-low temperature conditions and can be printed with barcodes and variable data for improved tracking.
Cold Vaccine Transport & Stability
When transporting vaccines, a sustained cold chain is essential, with temperatures being monitored and recorded immediately before and after transport. Transport should be done using insulated containers containing ice packs to maintain a stable temperature range or dry ice for frozen vaccines. When preparing the vaccines for transport, refrigerated vaccines must be packed before frozen vaccines and in separate insulated containers. Ideally, the temperature of the insulated container should continue to be monitored throughout transport. Vaccine labels should also be used to identify the vaccines and their containers during transportation to ensure proper tracking.
The use of temperature monitoring devices, such as min-max thermometers and data loggers, is recommended to ensure stable temperatures are maintained throughout storage and transport. These devices can be calibrated to within ±1°C and will alert staff if there are any deviations. Min-max thermometers provide three separate readings, including the minimum and maximum temperatures reached, as well as the current temperature. Conversely, data loggers offer a record of continual temperature variations, with the ability to print readings.
The use of vaccines to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions regarding their proper storage and use. A sustainable cold chain, paired with low-temperature vaccine labels is the best way to ensure the vaccines get where they’re supposed to and are functional when they do. The use of vaccine syringe labels to accurately identify prepared syringes should also help ensure the proper dose is given and keep track of the various COVID-19 vaccines currently being used.