6.6.1  Maintaining vaccine refrigerators

A refrigerator works well only if it is properly installed, cleaned and defrosted (ice is removed) regularly. Thick ice in the freezer compartment does not keep a refrigerator cool. Instead, it makes the refrigerator work harder and uses more electricity, gas or kerosene. You should defrost the refrigerator when ice becomes more than 0.5 cm thick, or once a month, whichever comes first.

What to do when a vaccine refrigerator is out of order

If your vaccine refrigerator stops working, protecting the vaccines is the first priority. Move them to another cold place until the refrigerator is repaired. If you think that the problem will last only a short time, you may use a cold box or vaccine carrier lined with conditioned ice-packs or chilled water bottles for temporary storage. If the breakdown is likely to last a long time, you should move the vaccines to another refrigerator as quickly as possible — for example, by transporting them in a vaccine carrier to the nearest health centre.

When you have moved your vaccines to a safe place, check the electricity, gas or kerosene supply that keeps the refrigerator cold. If it is not working because the gas or kerosene has run out (Figure 6.15), try to get a new supply delivered as soon as possible. If the breakdown is due to a mechanical problem, try to repair the refrigerator if you can. If this is not possible, report the problem to the repair technician and your supervisor at the nearby health centre. Don’t forget to record the breakdown on the daily temperature recording chart.

Figure 6.15  A Health Extension Worker checks the kerosene tank of a kerosene refrigerator. (Photo: Janet Haresnape)

6.6  How to maintain cold chain equipment

6.6.2  Maintaining cold boxes and vaccine carriers