Managing Vaccine Storage through a Power Outage

Published by Patrick Famisaran on

Managing Vaccine Storage through a Power Outage

In the world of pharmaceuticals, a power source is an asset. Power supports all the parameter lifelines associated with the vaccine cold chain. That includes temperature, humidity, and all the other environmental parameters. So, imagine how much disturbance a sudden power outage can do?

It causes a domino effect. When power is out, all parameters are affected. Once they go beyond the threshold, it will damage the vaccine condition. And once an ideal state is not achieved, vaccine efficacy is questionable. 

Action Steps in Managing Power Outage

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There’s more to vaccine handling than just vaccine administration to humans. The back-end process to get the vaccine to its recipients faces is a thorough job. From the logistics to storing, making sure the right conditions are met with fool-proof implementation. 

This is why a power source must be constant to any vaccine handling. But sudden power outage is inevitable. Power outage is expected, especially in a transit setting. Because of the continuous transport of vaccines, power may not be constant from touchpoint to touchpoint. To prevent the risks brought by a sudden power outage, there are some basic procedures to follow:

1. During power outage

Once power failure happens, we expect that refrigerators will warm. Sometimes very fast. Because of the instantaneous effect of vaccines, action steps must always be ready.

  • Isolation

The common mistake during power failure is to get the vaccines out of the refrigerator. That’s logical if you have prepared alternative storage. If there’s none, keep the refrigerator door shut. Leave the vaccines inside. This will maintain the internal temperature for a while. This will serve as your buffer time for other action steps. It will help if there is a tag in the refrigerator to notify: Do not use the vaccine. Keep refrigerator closed.

  • Monitoring

The last thing we want is for the refrigerator temperature to go below-desired levels. Strict temperature monitoring must follow isolation process A +20 C and +80 C range is ideal. Ensure that the temperature display can be read easily. Remember, there is no refrigerator door opening. That will cause further damage than good.

  • Alternative Cooling Preparation
Alternative cooling preparation for power outage
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Now vaccines are isolated. Now you are on constant monitoring. The next step is to prepare cooling packs for the vaccines. Conditioning of ice packs in a cooler to pre-chill is primary. This is an alternative route to secure that vaccines are still within the standard temperature range.

  • Transfer

Wait! Before actual transfer, make sure you meet these criteria first:

  1. refrigeration temperature is outside of the recommended +20 C and +80 C range
  2. cooler temperature achieves the recommended +20 C and +80 C range

Also, it is only logical to transfer vaccines when there’s a notification that the power outage will be more prolonged. If there’s confirmation that power will return shortly, focus on maintaining the temperature range in your refrigerator.

  • Cooler Monitoring

Because your cooler packs have no programmed temperature reading feature, it needs manual monitoring. It is advisable to monitor cooler temperatures at a 15-minute interval. You can do this in the first 2 hours. After which, hourly temperature recording can ensue. Make sure, though, that the temperature reading is stable.

A practical way to do monitoring is using data loggers. A data logger placed directly to the vaccines can ease your monitoring duties. 

  • Transfer, again?

There are three principles to follow for this transfer reference:

  1. no opening of cooler until there is an available alternative vaccine refrigerator
  2. when transferring vaccine to another refrigerator, make sure that a data logger is included
  3. if a power outage is long-term, say more than 24 hours, consider vaccine transfer to the most suitable storage in the nearest facility with power

But the work is not done yet! There are several action steps to do when power is restored. 

When Power is Restored

Well, that’s good news! Account the timeline during a power outage; protocols are in place to ensure that vaccine storage is within desired conditions.
  • Recording

Establishing the storage temperature baseline is crucial. Recording the temperature when the power is restored can serve as a reference before the actual transfer. 

  • Correct temperature

Achieving the right temperature before the transfer is the ideal mode. The actual transfer of vaccine will only ensue when the temperature returns to the +20 C and +80 C range. Once the correct temperature is confirmed, it is now safe to transfer the vaccines..

  • Tagging

Our efforts to maintain ideal parameters are supplemented by correct recording.  The affected vaccines during power failure should be a tagging priority. Make sure that parameter data is available before using any vaccines.

If data from data loggers show outside temperature reading, immediately tag the vaccine as “not for use” or “do not use.” If this happens during the power failure timeline, provide an incidence report to the relevant health department. 

  • Monitor

Continuous monitoring is still the most secure course of action. Even with power returning, making sure that the temperature is stable is a must. An hourly monitoring interval can be observed.  When the temperature is already stable, switching to twice a day monitoring can ensue.

Emergency Procedures

These are just some of the quick steps when a sudden power outage happens. It is always beneficial to prepare for any unforeseen disturbance. As mentioned, a power failure will cause so many of the parameters to fluctuate. Outlining alternative plans is vital to the whole vaccine administration. There are two practical steps to carry through:

1. Prepare Support Systems

Be it a power outage or a disaster ready to strike, support systems are augmentation procedures to limit disturbance effects. In cases of power failures, these are some practical support system guides:

  • Make sure that power networks have sensors to detect power outages. These sensors can relay alerts in real-time for quick response.
  • Install automated monitoring system in vaccine storage.  This will take care of parameter reading but at the same time send timely warnings to users. Monitors can also track security breaches.
  • Battery-operated thermometers are handy tools during power failures. Other than data loggers, battery thermometers can assist in making sure there is accurate temperature.

2. Alternative Storage

It is vital to prepare alternative vaccine storage for any unforeseen events. This assures that storage parameter are constant. When one refrigerator is affected by power failure, readily available storage is critical. Once alternative storage is available, we minimize the risks of disruption. In doing so, we prevent any vaccine wastage. The alternative options may include:

  • Backup power supply (generator or battery-enabled power source)
  • Offsite refrigerator. The best alternative storage may be present in the nearest health facility. Always consider, though, that the facility itself has no disruptions. To achieve this, a prior agreement is necessary.  
  • Ensure that a cooler is available. That cooler will last you a long way. They are portable storage items that can accommodate many essentials in vaccine transit. Some of which are.
  • vaccines
  • ice packs
  • monitoring devices (thermometers and data loggers)
  • insulating materials

AKCP Cold Chain Solutions

The benefit of cold chain monitoring solutions is evident in vaccine emergency cases. These solutions are capable of preventing the effects of any disturbance to vaccine storage. AKCP monitoring solutions have the ideal feature that covers the emergency needs in power outages.

AKCP Power Sensors

AKCP Power Monitoring Sensor

These sensors can remotely monitor power. Using this type can eliminate manual power audits while providing immediate alerts to potential issues. Power meter reading can be derived from these sensors using sensorProbe+ or securityProbe. The combination of the monitor sensors can measure:

  • phase line voltages
  • current
  • power factor
  • active energy
  • active power

Remote Monitoring for Medical Refrigerator

The advantage of the AKCP wireless temperature sensor comes from its capacity to monitor optimal temperature for inventory. It can also monitor compressors for any abnormalities. The sensors are also FDA and regulatory compliant. An added security feature also gives alerts when doors are left open. This monitoring solution is easy to install and generates report requirements for a review. 

AKCP Wireless Temperature and Humidity Sensor

AKCPro Pharma-mon Server

The Pharma-mon server acts as a central management software to cover all monitoring capacities on the ground. It is a single user interface that is capable of getting data from deployed sensors. It is capable of three main monitoring feature:

  • Vaccine tracking. It can track vaccine locations in the cold chain. Tracking happens whether vaccines are in storage or within transit. It has granular visibility to locate storage views and gather temperature data.
  • Data graphing. Because continuous data is coming from AKCP sensors, these data can be gathered through a wireless tunnel gateway. Once sensors are in range, data can synchronize to the server. Having that data, it is easy to project graphs to derive temperature excursions.
  • Scheduled reports. Report generation is automatic and compliant with regulation. This removes any manual form documentation. Relay of these reports via email is also easy.


In summary, these are some of the critical points to outline strategies against power outages.

  • Prepare backup plans
  • When power failure happens, do not take out vaccines from refrigerators
  • Find the nearest cold storage facility intended for vaccine storing
  • When power returns, record the temperature
  • Take account of cold chain breaches

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Categories: Cold Chain Monitoring


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