Issue 3
Monday, 30 April 2018
Charles Darwin University
Pharmacy student Amanda Peter
Pharmacy student Amanda Peter

Study finds ways to improve vaccine cold chain

By Patrick Nelson

A study into the practice of delivering medical vaccines to remote Central Australian communities has identified two “weak links” in the vaccine cold chain system.

Pharmacy Honours student Amanda Peter said that overheating caused by power outages was the most common breach in the “cold chain” process, which started when a vaccine was manufactured and ended when it was administered to a patient.

“A breach occurs when storage temperatures fall outside the range of 2C and 8C. This can reduce a vaccine’s viability and potentially lead to wastage,” Amanda said. 

“Almost half of authorised immunisers interviewed, reported that they had experienced a vaccine cold chain breach in the past year.”

Amanda said her study was designed to determine the knowledge, behaviour and attitude of authorised immunisers in some of Central Australia’s most challenging conditions.

“Most participants had a sound understanding of the meaning of cold chain, but most also did not have a detailed knowledge,” she said.

“Some said that heat was the main threat to vaccine integrity, but in Australia, the most common reason for vaccine damage and loss was freezing.”

Amanda said most authorised immunisers had said their most recent cold chain training had occurred more than a year ago, which may explain the “low recollection of topics covered”.

She said her findings suggested that more frequent staff training would likely lead to an improvement in overall outcomes.