Are Your Vaccines and Health Products Working?

March 18, 2010 07:00 PM

By Sandy Stuttgen, DVM, University of Wisconsin Extension

The failure of animal products and vaccines often are the result of human error and not the result of a defective product.

Have you ever done any of the following things?

  • Stored product in an old refrigerator out in the shed
  • Buy the product at the store, throw the bag in the truck, make a few stops, and then put the product in the refrigerator when you get home
  • Vaccinated cattle into the middle day where vaccine was exposed to sunlight and warm temperatures
  • Bought too much product, only used half a bottle, and saved the leftover for the next time you vaccinate
  • Used expired product

All of these practices could result in reducing the effectiveness of these products. Most farmers have been guilty of doing at least one of previous things at some point in time. In order for the health products to be successful, proper handling and storage of these products is critical.

Other than a veterinarian, labels are the best source of information regarding indications for use, dose and dosage interval, route of administration, residue withdrawal times, and storage.  Correct storage maintains a product's ability to perform and most vaccines require refrigeration. In contrast, many antibiotics do not require refrigeration, and if refrigerated the antibiotic can become unusable in a syringe and more painful to the animal.

A project by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in 2008 studied 191 refrigerators used by producers, retail stores, and vet clinics. Data loggers were used to record temps at 10-minute intervals over 48 hours.  Of 191 refrigerators tested, 76% were unacceptable for storing animal health products, because temperature was not consistently maintained between 35-45ºF. Refrigerator type and age were not critical factors in performance, however, refrigerator location did matter.  Refrigerators in barns were colder than recommended temperatures, whereas those located in temperature-controlled environments performed better.

Refrigerator performance depends on maintenance.  Things such as dusty coils, clogged drain tubes, frost build-up, and poor gasket condition, can cause refrigerators to work improperly.  A full refrigerator performs more consistently than an empty one, however, air movement around items is necessary for even chilling, so do not overfill the refrigerator.  How does your refrigerator perform? In order to check place a thermometer in the refrigerator and keep a log of randomly recorded temperatures.  If the temperatures are outside the range of 35-45ºF, the product can become ineffective and storing vaccines at less than 35ºF is more detrimental than over 45ºF.

All products have an expiration date.  This expiration date is not a suggested date, but a date to which the manufacturer has proven efficacy, when stored correctly.  Once a vaccine has been opened, it must be used in usually within 10 to 12 hours.  Therefore, use the product you have on hand and carefully calculated doses needed before ordering.

In order for vaccines and health products to be effective, the first step is follow label guidelines for storage and handling.  For additional information on health products storage, handling, and administration can be found here.

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