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Protect COVID-19 Vaccines with Real-Time Temperature Monitoring

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The cold chain can be a long and complicated journey for vaccines. One weak link and adverse temperatures can be costly.

A medical syringe and a vial resting on a bed of ice.Key Takeaways:

   Real-time data monitoring is key to successful temperature management throughout the COVID-19 cold chain
–   The WHO, UNICEF, and CDC all recommend this step as critical in vaccine management
–   Real-time temperature data empowers vaccine staff and supplies valuable historical data
–   Digital data loggers deliver reliable temperature information and help with electronic record compliance

One of the most integral aspects of COVID-19 vaccines is keeping them within required temperature parameters, whether they’re stationary or in motion. Refrigeration is essential to meeting these required limits, and hard-working staff needs all the help they can get to make sure that happens.

An effective way to manage vaccines is continuous monitoring using a digital data logger. This guide will explain the key role these devices play in vaccine temperature monitoring and meeting public health department recommendations.

Leading voices advocating the need for real-time vaccine monitoring

It is the revolutionary mRNA base at the heart of some COVID-19 vaccines that makes them particularly fragile and necessitates extremely low temperatures to slow decomposition. This process requires increased product vigilance and data transparency at every stage of the cold chain, making real-time temperature monitoring a mission-critical factor.

A joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF was published in 2018. Although made available before the marketing of mRNA-based vaccines and their need for sub-zero storage, the report stressed the importance of temperature monitoring in maintaining the vaccines’ effectiveness.

The report noted that as vaccines moved further along the supply chain, the temperature control standards increasingly deteriorated. It concluded that the ability to supervise vaccine temperatures can supply valuable data snapshots that can be used to identify and correct potential supply chain risks.

The updated “Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit” from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) further emphasizes the necessity of temperature monitoring at all five stages of the cold chain. The CDC ranks this factor among the top three elements of effective vaccine handling, alongside well-trained staff and inventory management.

Why vaccine staff must have access to real-time temperature monitoring

The CDC states that a well-trained staff should include a primary vaccine coordinator (page 7 of the toolkit), who should be:

  • “Checking and recording minimum/maximum temperatures at the start of each workday.” This means noting a “vaccine storage unit’s coldest and warmest temperature readings during a set period of time.”
  • “Reviewing and analyzing temperature data at least weekly for any shifts in temperature trends.”
  • “Responding to temperature excursions (out-of-range temperatures).”
  • “Maintaining all documentation, such as inventory and temperature logs.”

Supervising temperatures is recommended not only to protect vaccines and people but also to prevent loss of time and money, which are two additional vital factors in fighting disease. Those who receive temperature-compromised vaccines may have to receive replacements, further burdening staff and budgets. Those samples that are beyond saving must also be destroyed, resulting in thousands of dollars in waste.

The wider costs of unmonitored vaccines

Beyond the loss of potency and financial waste is the damage done to the reputation of vaccines when they’re ineffective or only partially work. It harms public perception and trust. Faith in vaccines is arguably the most essential element in their success and is as fragile as the product itself. Here again, real-time temperature monitoring can help preserve delicate products that are essential to national and global health efforts.

With real-time temperature monitoring, there’s no need for vaccine providers and administrators to surrender product integrity to a flawed cold chain, causing them to lose peace of mind, public faith, and possibly their reputation in the process.

Staff can be trained to monitor vaccines and respond effectively to temperature excursions only when they have the right equipment. The CDC toolkit recommends adding a digital data logger (DDL) to every vaccine storage unit. These are temperature monitoring devices (TMDs) that supply critical data, preserve vaccine efficacy, and prevent waste.

How data loggers make a big difference

A DDL is far superior to a min/max thermometer and can supply a constant stream of real-time temperature information, from first departure to final arrival. The recorded data can be accessed by inserting the logger into a computer and/or reviewing it via cloud-based storage.

This process allows every operator in the cold chain to have a readily available data set that can be used for historical readings and ongoing documentation. Previously recorded data allows staff to see how long a vaccine may have been outside of temperature parameters and if it can be salvaged, preventing material waste and monetary loss.

Data loggers are cost-effective and labor-saving by design. There’s no need to pay someone to record and store figures at every stop when the DDL does it automatically!

Vaccine temperature data must be up to date and safely recorded

Stakeholders must keep in mind that vaccine temperature monitoring is not simply a common-sense recommendation – it’s a matter of operational compliance. The CDC toolkit reminds readers that state regulations may require the storage of vaccine data for up to three years.

Having multiple DDLs that are 21 CFR-certified can help achieve this. Review page 10 of the CDC’s toolkit for a full set of recommendations on how to choose a reliable vaccine temperature monitoring device. Marathon Products is standing by to supply these devices whenever you need them.

Contact the experts in temperature management

Marathon Products helps the life sciences and semiconductor industries stay connected to items throughout the cold chain. Our products are 21 CFR compliant, which means you stay in line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for electronic recordkeeping.

Our products are 100% tested to ensure reliability. We supply precision environmental monitoring devices, including temperature and humidity sensors, data loggers, and vibration sensors so you can keep watch over your most sensitive COVID-19 shipments.

We have over 30 years of industry experience and serve clients in multiple sectors, ranging from Fortune 500 companies and governmental agencies to small and medium-sized businesses. Contact us at or call 510-562-6450 for more information.

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