Is freezing in the vaccine cold chain an ongoing issue? A literature review
Vaccine exposure to temperatures below recommended ranges in the cold chain may decrease vaccine potency of freeze-sensitive vaccines leading to a loss of vaccine investments and potentially places children at risk of contracting vaccine preventable illnesses. This literature review is an update to one previously published in 2007 (Matthias et al., 2007), analyzing the prevalence of vaccine exposure to temperatures below recommendations throughout various segments of the cold chain. Overall, 45 studies included in this review assess temperature monitoring, of which 29 specifically assess ‘too cold’ temperatures. The storage segments alone were evaluated in 41 articles, 15 articles examined the transport segment and 4 studied outreach sessions. The sample size of the studies varied, ranging from one to 103 shipments and from three to 440 storage units. Among reviewed articles, the percentage of vaccine exposure to temperatures below recommended ranges during storage was 33% in wealthier countries and 37.1% in lower income countries. Vaccine exposure to temperatures below recommended ranges occurred during shipments in 38% of studies from higher income countries and 19.3% in lower income countries. This review highlights continuing issues of vaccine exposure to temperatures below recommended ranges during various segments of the cold chain. Studies monitoring the number of events vaccines are exposed to ‘too cold’ temperatures as well as the duration of these events are needed. Many reviewed studies emphasize the lack of knowledge of health workers regarding freeze damage of vaccines and how this has an effect on temperature monitoring. It is important to address this issue by educating vaccinators and cold chain staff to improve temperature maintenance and supply chain management, which will facilitate the distribution of potent vaccines to children.