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A vaccine refrigerator is a refrigeration unit designed specifically for storing vaccines and other temperature-sensitive medical supplies, most of which need to be held at temperatures lower than that of a conventional fridge. The unit provides extremely stable low temperatures to prevent degradation of vaccines and other products, along with options like alarms and backup power to provide complete protection. Medical supply companies sell vaccine refrigerators, and they may also be available through refrigeration firms that work with the medical profession.
Vaccines need to stay at a stable temperature, or they can start to break down. The vaccine refrigerator maintains a very narrow range of temperatures to prevent damage caused by temperature fluctuations. It is also designed to keep temperatures consistent throughout the unit, avoiding hot and cold spots where vaccines could experience damage. The fridge comes with temperature sensors and may have an alarm that alerts when the temperature falls outside the safe storage range, so care providers know there may be a problem with the fridge and the vaccines it contains.
Backup power units for vaccine refrigerators may also be available. These come in the form of batteries to keep the temperature low in the event of a power failure, or in regions where power supplies are intermittent. In regions where there is no electrical grid at all, the vaccine refrigerator may run off a wind turbine, generator, or solar panel with a battery for power storage to make sure it will function in adverse conditions.
The unit may have shelving and drawers designed specifically for holding vaccines, as the packaging tends to be consistent in size and shape across manufacturers, and a generic fridge design should be able to accommodate most vaccines. A vaccine refrigerator is also usually configurable to allow users to adjust the capacity and organization inside. Some have a pass-through design, allowing personnel to load the fridge from the back and access vaccines from the front. This ensures that the oldest units are used first.
Vaccines are not usually hazardous, and no special controls are needed on a vaccine refrigerator to limit access. Some may have a lock to prevent loss and theft. In the case of a unit that may also store hazardous materials, the design is slightly different to accommodate the need for increased security. It may have options like locking drawers so anyone can access basic supplies, but a key is necessary to open the drawers for controlled substances.