COVID-19 Vaccine Temperature Monitoring Device: Do They Work?

Vaccine temperature monitoring devices have become commonplace in recent years. Because of the Covid-19 virus pandemic of the past year and a half, vaccines have flooded the marketplace—and they require consistent temperature monitoring to ensure their integrity. This has put additional pressure on the cold chain and emphasizes the need for accurate temperature data. 

The risks associated with improperly handling and storage of these sensitive assets have caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement guidelines related to temperature monitoring of vaccines. 

This includes acceptable types of Temperature Measuring Devices (TMDs) capable of monitoring the temperature ranges vaccines are subjected to in their lifespan. In this article, we will take a closer look at what the CDC expects and what makes a TMD operate properly.

The Six Parts of a Temperature Monitoring System

Here is a breakdown of the six main components required for an effective vaccine temperature monitoring system:

Temperature Probe/Sensor

Depending on the TMD, the temperature is monitored by either an internal sensor or an external probe. The accuracy of the temperature readings recorded may be impacted slightly by the type of probe. The most common of the sensors available include RTD, thermistor, and thermocouple.

Thermal Buffer

A thermal buffer does exactly what its name indicates - it buffers the temperature when it fluctuates due to a door being opened, loading or removal of products, or when the cooling compressor cycles. Types of thermal buffers include a nylon block, a bottle filled with glass beads, or a bottle containing ethylene glycol.

Temperature Measurement Device (TMD)

This is the core component of the system. TMDs come in many forms but Digital Data Loggers (DDLs) are the most accurate and reliable. A DDL is portable, battery-operated, and can store measurements on a microprocessor for retrieval at a later time. Some DDL models provide real-time data sent via wifi to a smartphone or tablet for analysis.

Data Storage

Although real-time data monitoring is preferred in some settings, having room to store historical readings is as valuable. This is because trends and patterns may be detected from reviewing long-term records of temperature readings. The data can be stored in places other than onboard a DDL. Memory can be in a local base station hard drive, a local PC, or in the Cloud.

Software

Any system that uses technology requires software to control how that system functions. Key functions to expect from software applications include configuration, charting of collected data, management of alarm/alert systems, data collection, and reporting.

Alarm

The final piece of the puzzle is the alarm system. Most users prefer instant notifications when a temperature excursion occurs. Alerts are delivered in several ways. They include a visual indicator like a flashing light, an audible alarm, an email message sent to key personnel, an SMS text message sent to key personnel, or a phone call.

What The CDC Says About TMDs

The CDC has released guidelines related to vaccine temperature monitoring. They indicate that each storage unit and transport unit must have a TMD. There also must be a backup TMD available should the original one become damaged or malfunction. According to the CDC, the preferred type of TMD is a DDL. A DDL’s accuracy is superior to other methods and tools that monitor and track temperature. That accuracy makes them the recommended choice for monitoring vaccine temperature. The CDC also suggests that DDLs with certain features be used by storage and transport facilities. The DDLs should have a detachable temperature probe, an alarm to indicate when temperatures are outside of the optimal range, a low-battery indicator, a recommended uncertainty of +/- 0.5C (+/- 1F), a programmable reading rate, and have a current valid Certificate of Calibration Testing.

How Do We Know They Work?

The CDC has developed a procedure to follow when a temperature excursion is detected. It is based on the use of Digital Data Loggers used as a temperature monitoring device. The first step a staff member must follow once an alarm has sounded is to notify key personnel of the cause of the alarm. Information to be documented from that moment includes:

- Date and time of the temperature excursion

- Temperatures of both the storage unit and the room holding the storage unit

- The name of the person filling out the report

- A description of the event being recorded

- The length of time vaccines may have been affected

- An inventory list of all items in the storage unit

- Any storage unit issues noted before the event

- Any other information related to the event

The temperature data collected by the data logger before the event and during the failure of the cold chain is then downloaded, printed, and analyzed to identify any potential trends or patterns that may pinpoint what caused the temperature excursion. This data is vital to the investigation and verifies the reliability of DDLs in such a setting.

Final Thoughts

Vaccines are sensitive assets, and their handling and storage are critical. Vaccines lose effectiveness if they are stored in temperatures outside of the recommended range. When this occurs, it is not only a financial burden, but it also may mean revaccination is required. This adds to the cost. Vaccines spoiled due to improper storage temperatures cannot be administered and end up being destroyed. Replacing these assets adds to the cost. 

The most cost-effective way to get vaccines to patients is to carefully monitor the environmental conditions they are subjected to through the entire cold chain. The best way to do that is with a digital data logger.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that digital data loggers are the best tool for that job. With an endorsement like that, you can trust that temperature monitoring devices do work and are responsible for helping get vaccines to where they need to be safely and securely.

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