Overall, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for vaccine shipments are particularily sensitive, specific and rightfully strict. These outlined procedures represent a few of the calculated standards for unpacking, logging, and storing vaccines as per CDC's guidelines. If you've recieving incoming vaccine shipments, be sure to keep these simple (but crucial) procedures in mind. Check out the Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit for more tips on unpacking vaccines and other related topics.
Upon Vaccine Delivery:
Make sure that employees that are specially trained to handle deliveries are present. If such qualified personnel are not the first recipients of the delivery, all other receipients should be educated on the contents of the delivery, their relative sensitivities, and a clear 'next step' procedure. Important deliveries may reach a receptionist, clerk, or other 'non-medical' staff and at the very least, these individuals should be able to handle and divert the delivery to the appropriate staff member. These represent a small (but important) set of procedures that help to maintain the continuity of the vaccine cold chain.
Examination of the Shipment:
The first step (as with any delivery or package) should always be to examine the package for any defects or damages. Keep in mind, any signs of damage should be immediately reported to the vaccine coordinator or qualified staff.
The second step is to match the contents of the package with the included packing slip. There should be a direct correlation between the contents of the box and the slip, and frankly, there is no such thing as a "small mistake" for this examination. The matches should be exact; vaccine type and exact quantity should mirror the packing slip.
The third step is to check the monitoring device(s) or system(s) for possible temperature exposure. The consequences of temperature variation (specific to vaccines) are well-documented and well-publicized. These devices will house relevant temperature data, and may display indications of temperature variation. If this is the case, report any abnormalities or changes to the vaccine coordinator.
Reporting a Problem:
Standard Operating Procedures that may have been compromised (unqualified recipients, inaccurate packing slip, extreme temperature variation during transport) should never be ignored. If you (or a staff member) suspects that any of the SOPs have been compromised or sidestepped, immediately locate the vaccine coordinator and include the specific details or observations. If the coordinator isn't present, write a detailed description of all questions and concerns and forward to all superiors. Before locating the coordinator or detailing your findings, mark the vaccines with a 'DO NOT USE' label. This is an effective safeguard and prevents tainted vaccines from reaching the next step in the chain.
Since the vaccine cold chain is comprised of several interlocking and overlapping parts, each 'part' or 'section' of the chain plays a significant role in the quality control and distribution of the vaccine. If your facility or business handles vaccines on any basis, it makes sense to educate all employees (whether they handle vaccines or not) on unpacking vaccines (at a basic level) and the main point of internal contact for the vaccines. A company-wide understanding and adherence to SOPs is crucial, given the overall sensitivity and importance of each vaccine delivery.