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August 2019

Cold chain breeches cost NHS £6m

The cost to the NHS of wasted vaccines was more than £6 million in 2018 and more than half of the wasted doses could have been avoided, according to a report in Vaccine Update.

The main reasons for vaccines having to be discarded were:

  • Fridge door left open
  • Fridge switched off or broken
  • Fridge equipment failure (excluding power failures)
  • Wrong temperature range
  • Lack of temperature monitoring
  • Stock left out of fridge.

Other issues included vaccines expiring before they could be used, excess or wrong stock ordered in error, vaccine prepared but damaged before use.

‘If vaccines are not stored correctly, it is not only wasteful and expensive for the NHS but vaccines may lose their effectiveness. This could result in a failure of the vaccine to provide the required immune response,’ Public Health England says.

‘In addition, if a vaccine is not stored within the required temperature range of 2-8°C, it is no longer within the terms of its product license.’

Practice nurses are being urged to check their vaccine fridges and to minimise wastage by holding no more than 2-4 weeks’ supply of vaccines.

  • For a more detailed look at maintaining the cold chain and what to do in the event of a breach, catch up with Tricia Smith’s article, Managing the vaccine fridge, Practice Nurse 2019;49(5):14-16 

Public Health England. Vaccine Update 2019;197:8-9