All vaccines require different levels of storage and care. Although uncommon, it’s possible that you may have an activated vaccine or one that has been reconstituted with a diluent that is not administered to a patient right away. In that instance, you’ll need to refer to the manufacturer instructions and follow these steps to protect your patients.
Know How Long a Vaccines can be Remain Reconstituted
Many vaccines must be reconstituted by mixing the freeze-dried vaccine powder with a liquid. This is typically done right before the vaccine is administered, but occasionally, the medical staff is not able to administer the reconstituted vaccine immediately. Typically, if the vaccine is reconstituted for more than 24 hours, it should be discarded. With that said, it’s important to read the manufacturer’s packet for specific instructions. Imovax, RabAvert, and Pentacel must all be discarded immediately if not used, while ProQuad, Varivax, and Zostavax must be discarded within 30 minutes.
Read Storage Instructions Carefully
In general, you should never store a vaccine in a disposable syringe. If you draw a reconstituted vaccine into a syringe and don’t administer it right away, it should be discarded at the end of the clinic day. Vaccines that come in manufacturer made, non-activated syringes, by contrast, can be kept through their expiration date.
If you have a reconstituted vaccine and don’t use it right away, make sure that it is stored at the proper temperature. Some of these vaccines can be kept in a vaccine refrigerator or stored at room temperature, but some may only be kept in a medical refrigerator. These include Imovax, Pentacel, and RabAvert, but also ActHIB, Menveo, and Shingrix. When in doubt, keep your activated vaccines in the lab refrigerator. If you feel it is not safe to use, give it a Beyond Use Date label.
Dispose of Expired Vaccines Appropriately
Vaccines should always be rotated in and out of your medical freezer or refrigerator so that they are not inadvertently given to a patient. Many vaccine expiration dates will have a month and year (for example, 09/18), so you should interpret that as expiring on the last day of the month (September 30). Never use an expired vaccine, even if it is only one day past the expiration date. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for proper vaccine disposal.
As always, you’ll need to be sure that you have a working medical freezer or scientific refrigerator to properly store vaccines. If you have questions, talk to your medical freezer or vaccine manufacturer for support.