As more pharmacists administer vaccinations to their customers, proper management of vaccine inventories is worth reviewing. Drug Topics spoke with Jerilin Kenney, Vice President/General Manager of Life Sciences and Healthcare at Phononic about its line of Evolve refrigerators that provide the reliable temperature control for these high-value products.
DT: Why is maintaining vaccines at optimal temperature potentially a challenge for pharmacists?
Kenney: The typical refrigeration unit has to operate at freezing temperature in order to provide the control temperature needed inside the chamber. There’s a risk it could go into overdrive, thereby freezing the contents inside. The challenge with vaccines is you don’t know if they’ve been frozen or not. All you can do is monitor the temperature to make sure they stay within range.
DT: Why can’t a traditional refrigerator meet those temperature requirements?
Kenney: It can, but consumer-grade refrigerators are built for energy conservation. They allow an internal temperature range fluctuation of up to 10 to 12 degrees. The center area of the refrigerator may stay within a nice range, but the extreme areas— the bottom or top of the refrigerator—could extend to very extreme temperature conditions. It is not equipped to provide the uniformity, stability, and lack of freezing conditions that most medical-grade or high-performance refrigerators are purpose-built to overcome.
DT: How do Evolve refrigerators address vaccination storage requirements?
Kenney: Evolve refrigerators do not freeze, eliminating the risk of a product freezing. In the Evolve 5.5 Protect Plus, we built a dual redundant refrigeration system. In the event of a system failure, our system has a dual backup that the Evolve 5.5 can maintain and protect the vaccine. We also built in a monitoring system. Reports can be downloaded through USB or by connecting to a remote server for real time notices of temperature extremes, door opening conditions, or power outages that could put products at risk. These concepts are integrated from the ground up to provide a holistic approach to a better storage environment.
DT: Can pharmacists store other medications that need refrigeration in these refrigerators?
Kenney: Absolutely! Temperature control in the Evolve refrigerators allows a set point anywhere between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. Our solid-state refrigeration technology precisely hits that target temperature and holds it throughout the entire chamber with no more than one degree of variability from any point in the fridge. That’s not an average temperature — it’s a consistently held temperature. Unlike a normal refrigerator that goes through compressor cycles that go up and down as the compressor turns on and off, Evolve sets a temperature and holds it consistently.
Up next: The advantages
DT: What advantages does Evolve offer?
Kenney: The technology provides a foundation for the redundant system and the tight temperature profile and uniformity. There are also environmental benefits like quietness, no heat released into the environment, lower energy consumption, and a totally green refrigerant—carbon dioxide— compared to Freon and other combustible liquids and gases.
DT: What feedback are you getting from pharmacies that have implemented Evolve, and what are your plans for future enhancements?
Kenney: So far, we’ve gotten very good feedback. They appreciate the temperature performance and the ability to monitor data both locally and remotely. They also like the ability to lock the unit to control access, and the ability to move it around on casters so they can clean under and around it. For the future, we’re looking into providing more reportability on user access and expanding our temperature monitoring program on the remote level to provide more flexibility.
DT: How has the market for this type of storage grown?
Kenney: The cold storage market for drug and vaccine storage had grown in multiple ways. More biologics and vaccines are being sold and therefore more cold storage is required. There are more channels for these products, such as retail pharmacies, urgent care, and doctor’s practices. Health-care facilities are replacing existing assets that do not pass medical-grade quality standards. New hospital facilities and patient towers are putting med rooms closer to nursing stations and patients’ rooms.