Storage solutions for today and tomorrow's vaccines

Thermo Fisher Scientific
Thursday, 01 April, 2021

A vaccine is only as good as the place it’s stored in, as most require highly specific temperatures to remain effective. Even a minor deviation from this can dramatically impact a vaccine’s efficacy and, at worse, render it useless.

Types of vaccines

  • Whole Virus Vaccine: Cells manufacture a replicating virus. This virus may be weakened (attenuated) or killed (inactivated) to minimise harm to the patient.
  • Viral Vector: A less dangerous virus carries the nucleotide sequence of the target virus to help vaccination.
  • Chimeric vaccine: A less dangerous virus is engineered to contain antigens of the target virus to generate an immune response.
  • Virus-Like particle (VLP): Only the virus shell is used without any nucleic acids. This VLP cannot replicate but can generate an immune response.
  • Sub Unit vaccine: A protein from the virus is produced, which cannot cause the disease but can generate an immune response.
  • DNA/RNA vaccine: The DNA/RNA sequence is administered as the vaccine, which is transcribed and/or translated to produce antigens that generate an immune response.
Recommended Temperature Vaccine Modalities Existing Vaccines
2 to 8°C Whole Virus Flu (shot), Polio (shot) MMR, Rotavirus
Chimeric Yellow fever
Sub Unit Shingles
Virus-Like Particle (VLP) HPV
Viral Vector Rabies, West Nile (vet), canine distemper
-50 to -20°C    
-70°C mRNA

Importance of temperature control

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 50% of vaccines may be wasted globally every year due to issues relating to temperature control, logistics and shipment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WHO emphasise the importance of temperature to protect vaccine integrity. Residential or white good products are not designed to maintain the rigid temperature control, stability, and uniformity necessary for vaccines or other medical samples.

  • Temperature control is essential to a sample’s integrity, and, as such, samples are only as reliable as the units in which they are stored.
  • Many vaccines are only effective if they remain within the extremely limited temperature range of 2°C to 8°C. Outside of this range, there is no guarantee the vaccine will be effective.

Proper temperatures for vaccine storage for today and tomorrow’s vaccines

Despite what some people think, not all refrigerators are created equal. Many healthcare institutions still rely on residential-style or white-box refrigeration units to keep their sensitive biomedical samples safe. These units are not designed to maintain the rigid temperature control necessary for vaccines and other medical samples. If you’ve ever pulled a frozen beverage from the back of your refrigerator, you’ve experienced the problem. Many facilities using these types of units struggle with cabinet temperature uniformity, resulting in some vaccines growing warmer or colder than others. Temperature stability can also become an issue, as these units are not designed for immediate temperature recovery after every door opening. By the end of a busy lab day, a white box unit's internal temperature could be dangerously high from room-temperature air entering the cabinet, putting vaccines at risk.

For these reasons, many residential and commercial-grade refrigerators clearly state that they are not intended for lab use. Just as a residential coffee maker could void office insurance policies in the event of a fire, the use of a white box unit in the lab could become a liability for lab facilities.

Purpose-built cold storage equipment

  • The CDC and the WHO recommend purpose-built cold storage equipment and temperature monitoring device to protect vaccine integrity.
  • Keep vaccines in the correct equipment designed to either refrigerate or freeze (compact, under-the-counter-style or large units).
  • Choose high performance units with uniform temperature throughout the cabinet and fast temperature recovery from routine access.
  • Set temperatures at the midpoint to maintain recommended range.
    • 5°C to maintain 2°C–8°C for traditional refrigeration vaccine storage
    • -20°C for manual defrost units to maintain -50°C to -15°C for frozen vaccines
    • -30°C for auto defrost units to maintain -50°C to -15°C for frozen vaccines
    • -70°C (±10°C) for ultra-cold storage
  • Use a temperature monitoring device to ensure temperatures are within range

You shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to storing precious vaccines. That is why we provide high-performance purpose-built refrigerators, freezers, and ultra-low freezers designed to meet current and forthcoming specifications set by the WHO, the CDC, National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and other global agencies for vaccine storage.

Thermo ScientificTM vaccine storage solutions

Thermo Fisher Scientific strives to provide hospitals, doctors’ clinics and pharmacies with the tools they need to deliver every vaccine at full strength and efficacy — and that starts with proper cold storage.

  • Designed and built to support the requirements of pharmaceuticals and vaccine manufacturing, distribution, and storage worldwide
    • Precise temperature control to ensure the desired range
    • Fast recovery from door openings to protect sample integrity
    • Uniform temperature distribution to maintain sample equality
  • Designed to deliver safe and reliable vaccine storage while supporting accreditation and quality management standards. Meets the CDC and the WHO guidelines and recommendations for proper vaccine storage
  • Breadth of the vaccine portfolio — a large selection of product with capacities for each temperature point
  • Wireless remote monitoring solutions to monitor critical parameters
  • Service support for installation, maintenance, and validation services

Purpose-built cold storage units, such as the Thermo Scientific™ TSX series of lab refrigerators, are designed to protect precious and highly sensitive biological materials such as vaccines.

Unlike the standard compressor that powers a residential unit, the TSX series uses variable speed, or V-drive, technology, engineered to provide temperature uniformity throughout the cabinet while continuously adapting to user patterns and door openings to keep temperatures within a vaccine-safe range at all times.

For more information, visit

Top image credit: © Grandini

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