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Handling & storage of vaccines

Handling vaccines correctly is essential because vaccines are sensitive to temperature and light. Freezing, overheating or prolonged exposure to sunlight will kill vaccines. Some simple rules to remember when using vaccines include:

Unless otherwise stated, keep vaccines refrigerated or when ready to use, keep cool in an esky with an ice brick.

Use insulated bags/cooler with ice packs during transport or alternatively a car fridge if available.

Do not remove vaccines from packaging until ready to use and then avoid placing open packs of vaccines directly against ice bricks.

Place vaccines in a cooler when not in use whilst in the yards.

Given the different vaccination schedules, it is important to read the label and information sheet provided with the vaccine before using it. Check the appropriate timing between shots (if multiple shots are required), the dose and method of administration.

Most vaccines are given as a subcutaneous injection (under the skin), but this does vary. Ultravac® Scourshield®, a scours vaccine in cattle, is given intramuscularly.

Manufacturer’s recommendations should always be followed when storing vaccines. Record batch numbers and expiry dates for quality assurance and future reference. Some vaccine such as tick fever vaccine have a very short shelf life and vaccination procedures need to be carefully planned to use the vaccine as soon as possible after purchase.

The length of time vaccines can be stored after opening the vial depends on sterility to reduce the subsequent growth of organisms in the vaccine. Open the sealed tube and fix it carefully to the pack and gun to reduce the opportunity for contamination. If the vaccine is then stored as this closed unit, there is likely to be little chance of growth of organisms. However, if you are not careful when setting up the equipment, the vaccine may become contaminated, and it will need to be discarded within a short period after opening. Manufacturers provide recommendations for how long opened vaccines can be stored after the initial opening of the pack.