The field of medicine has enjoyed a number of advances in the past few centuries that have helped save many more lives. In the 1600s, microscopes helped scientists learn much more about the world of tiny organisms, and germ theory revolutionized the fight against disease. The development of sterilization only helped this cause. Meanwhile, the development of vaccines went a long way toward protecting lives from deadly viruses, and for over 200 years, vaccines have been doing their work. Today, vaccines fight more diseases than ever, but they are delicate and sensitive to temperature. So, medical refrigerators and freezers are used to store them, and a vaccine refrigerator may store many vaccines at once. A benchtop freezer can save space and store a modest number of vaccines, too. A medical fridge freezer can store vaccines more effectively than ordinary commercial freezers, and medical supply wholesalers may sell them to hospitals and labs. What is there to know about medical refrigerators and freezers, and the vaccines they store inside?
Vaccines Then and Now
Today’s medical refrigerators and freezers store a wide variety of potent vaccines, but this all started back in the 1700s. In the year 1796, a man named Edward Jenner developed what he called the “arm to arm” inoculation method for fighting smallpox, the first vaccine. He did this by extracting a tissue sample from a cowpox patient’s skin blister, and transferring that material to another patient. In this way, the second patient’s immune system was trained to recognize and fight off diseases such as smallpox and cowpox, and this proved successful. More and more vaccines were developed and refined over the years, and by the 1940s, vaccines were being mass produced for the first time. They fought off common viruses of the time, such as whooping cough, Diphtheria, smallpox, and tetanus.
By now, vaccines can fight off an even wider variety of infections such as Polio and measles, and this has saved many lives. In fact, it is estimated that vaccines prevent some 2.5 million deaths per year, and measles in particular claims fewer victims per year than ever. In 2000, this virus killed some 546,800 people, but that figure dropped to 114,900 by 2014, a considerable 79% decrease in fatalities. What is more, the WHO and the Measles and Rubella Initiative said that ever since the year 2000, some 17.1 million lives have been saved due to the measles vaccine.
Who gets vaccinated the most? Children get many safe and routine vaccines as babies and toddlers to jump-start their immune systems against disease, contrasting with high infant mortality rates of centuries past. The elderly often get vaccines too, to update existing inoculations and to reinforce their age-worn immune systems. This can also help prevent the rapid spread of disease in crowded retirement homes.
Storing Vaccines Properly
There is no doubt that vaccines are powerful and essential for today’s public health, but they are also delicate and need proper storage techniques. This is why medical refrigerators and freezers are used, and these units can store vaccines (and tissue samples) at safe temperatures. These units vary in size and shape, but they are all available from medical supply wholesalers, who may sell them to hospitals and research labs.
According to the CDC’s guidelines, frozen vaccines need a temperature of -58 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and others need to be stored at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But ordinary freezers and fridge units can’t handle this, since they are designed with food and drinks in mind. These units have a wide temperature flux when their doors are repeatedly opened, which could ruin the vaccines inside.
Instead, a hospital or research lab’s staff will look for medical refrigerators and freezers, and these medical-grade units will carefully maintain their internal temperature. The staff at a large and busy hospital may get a larger freezer or cooler unit to store all their vaccines, and clear up enough floor space for that unit. A smaller hospital or research lab’s staff will order smaller units instead, and they may invest in a countertop freezer that can hold a few vaccines at a time. They might even purchase an under-the-counter freezer or fridge unit to save even more space.