If you purchase a vaccine for a disease and inject it into your animals, you can rest assured that you won’t have to worry about that disease. Right? Wrong! To start with, no vaccine is 100 percent effective at providing immunity to all animals that receive the vaccine. Further, your techniques for purchasing, storage and use of vaccines can diminish their effectiveness tremendously. Although you can’t expect perfect protection, there are some common-sense things you can do to get the greatest possible benefit from your investment in animal health products.
Proper vaccine management starts at the purchase. Research done at the University of Arkansas and Idaho revealed that one-third of retailers and suppliers were not maintaining proper temperature in refrigerators. Ask your supplier if they have a temperature gauge in their units or if you are having a product shipped, make sure to check the temperature as soon as you receive the vaccine. All the precautions you can take in storing and handling vaccines will not help if they are deactivated before they come into your hands.
Vaccines should be stored between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. High temperatures can quickly deactivate the vaccine, but too cold is even worse. Freezing changes the structure of the adjuvant and thus inactivates the product. In bacterins that contain whole cells, such as the clostridial (blackleg) vaccines, freezing ruptures the cells releasing high levels of endotoxin, which can cause local reactions or toxic shock. A common practice for producers is to put the new, efficient refrigerator in the house and the old one that was replaced in the barn for storing vaccines. Perhaps it would make more sense, in light of your vaccine investment, to put a modern, smaller and efficient apartment-sized refrigerator in a convenient place for vaccine storage only. You should always discard vaccines that have , or vaccines that are opened or partially used and those that are expired.
Proper use of biological products is important also. The first step is to read the label. Almost all vaccines will offer the statement that they are for use in healthy animals. Sick or debilitated animals cannot respond well immunologically to vaccines. The label will also tell you the approved uses, route of administration, and withdrawal time for the product. Always take vaccines to the chute in insulated coolers that will keep them within the proper temperature range. If you use an appropriate cooler, you can take enough for the morning or the afternoon, but not both at once. In hot weather, use ice or cold packs and keep the cooler out of direct sunlight.
Most soaps, detergents and disinfectants can leave residues that may deactivate your biological products when you next use your syringes. After use, disassemble syringes, clean them thoroughly with hot water and air dry the parts before putting them back together. Storing syringes in clean, dry ziplock bags will help keep them clean without jeopardizing the effectiveness of the vaccines you will use with them.
I am routinely asked if it is acceptable to use vaccines that have recently gone past their expiration date, or how long past the expiration date it is acceptable to use expired vaccines. I often think of vaccines as similar to insurance. They won’t guarantee that you never have a problem but can definitely minimize the impact of the problem. The expiration date is put on the product for a reason. You can choose to have confidence in the vaccine after the expiration date, just as you can choose to have confidence in your insurance after the expiration date of your policy, but be prepared to accept the consequences if you need the protection but find that it is no longer there for you.