UNITED STATES—The COVID-19 vaccine push in 2021 has shone a spotlight on temperature monitoring for vaccines. The vaccines that are currently approved for use in the U.S. – from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson – need to be stored at anywhere from normal, refrigerated temperatures to an ultra-cold deep freeze in order to maintain their effectiveness.
This has put the onus on private companies and government entities that are responsible for vaccine distribution to get their temperature monitoring right. Even a small mistake in this area can massively disrupt the national (and even global) vaccination effort. Here is how to avoid mistakes in vaccine temperature monitoring.
Understanding your organization is important
For many organizations, this may be the first time they are using temperature monitoring to rollout vaccines. For others, even if they have done it before, they are likely now required to do it on a level that they have never done it before. Either way, understanding how your organization operates now and what your needs are to get to scale are important aspects of avoiding temperature monitoring mistakes.
Creating the right plan is key here and understanding your organization is key to creating the plan. How many data loggers will you need? Where will they be placed? How will they be calibrated? How will they be monitored? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask and answer as part of your vaccine temperature monitoring plan. If you deal with these questions without a comprehensive knowledge of your organization, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Set your sensors up right
The digital sensors, known as data loggers, that are used in cold chain temperature monitoring are one of the most important aspects of vaccine temperature monitoring. These sensors are incredibly accurate and have the capability to provide the exact temperature information that is needed but if they are not set up correctly at the beginning of the process, it is all for naught.
Setting up data loggers correctly is a multi-step process where each piece needs to be done in conjunction with the others. It is possible to do it in-house if you have the right specialized personnel but many companies leave it to the professionals to avoid mistakes.
First, there needs to be a plan as to where the data loggers can be placed. Temperature mapping is a good way to find this out but, in the case of the vaccine rollout, there may not be enough time to do this properly. The data loggers also need to be installed properly. This falls under the installation qualification piece of the quality assurance practice widely used in the pharma industry known as IQ OQ PQ.
There should also be a clear set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) that go along with the data loggers. Finally, the data loggers all need to be properly calibrated so you can be sure that the information you are getting during the monitoring process is correct. For vaccine distribution, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the data loggers should be calibrated to +/- 0.5 degrees Celsius.
Train your people properly
Vaccine temperature monitoring isn’t just about organizational processes and technology. It is also about the people involved in the process. Dickson’s guide notes that people involved in vaccine temperature monitoring absolutely need to have “a thorough understanding” of the equipment and processes in place. The way they get this understanding is through proper and in-depth training.
This training should be very specific to their responsibilities related to temperature monitoring. They should know what data loggers are, how they work, how to monitor them, and how to respond to common alerts and alarms. If they are involved in the overall monitoring process they should be trained on how to analyze the data they are seeing and how to respond to it to make the best data-driven decisions possible.
Get your information in real-time
The vaccine distribution and temperature monitoring process is a dynamic one. It is constantly changing and new information should be coming through at all times. This is why getting the best, most real-time information possible is so vital for avoiding mistakes in this process. When you get real-time data, you can quickly respond to any issues that come up. If you are dealing with old information during this process, by the time you get critical information about a problem, it may already be too late.
One of the best ways to get real-time information is to use internet-connected data loggers that are a part of the Internet of Things (IoT). These types of data loggers can communicate temperature (and other environmental) information in real-time to a central, cloud-based remote monitoring system. This allows employees in a central location to see the big distribution picture and respond to events as they unfold. Doing this can mean the difference between correcting an issue before it becomes a problem and losing doses or entire batches of vaccine.
Always be improving
Not making mistakes in the vaccine temperature monitoring process means not resting in your laurels. Even if the process is going smoothly so far, that doesn’t mean there can’t be issues in the future. This is why you need to always be tracking your results, testing better ways of doing things, and tweaking when necessary. This constant improvement mindset will help keep your organization’s eye on the prize and not only reduce mistakes but become more efficient during the rollout so that the vaccines get to people who need them faster and your company saves money in the process.
Mistakes happen in every process but there are ways to avoid them. In the process of temperature monitoring for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, minimizing or eliminating these mistakes is crucial. To help your organization do this, you need to first understand your organizational needs and then execute your monitoring plan correctly through proper setup and training. After that, you need to monitor your environmental data in real-time and constantly be looking for ways to improve. This is how you avoid mistakes.