What is the proper way to store my vaccines?

Phil Osborne
Animal Husbandry Specialist
WVU Extension Service

The use of vaccine to protect against costly losses from disease in the Cow herd is an essential part of good herd management. These vaccines must be handled and stored properly if they are to be effective. Modified live vaccines are more sensitive to being mishandled. Good handling and storage procedures will ensure that you have few problems.

First, buy vaccine from a dealer who has good storage and handing practices. After purchase, store vaccine in a cool, dark place such as a refrigerator (not on the dash board of the pickup). Vaccines cannot stand warm temperatures and light. Care should be taken to ensure that the vaccine does not freeze, because this can ruin most vaccines.

Vaccines should be properly stored until they are ready for use. Expose only what vaccine is needed or will be used in about an hour. If there are several animals to be processed, keep vaccines in a cool insulated container and take them out as needed. Most modified live vaccines must be rehydrated by adding a sterile diluent to the freeze-dried material, which is vacuum-packaged. Because of this vacuum, the diluent can be pulled through a transfer needle into the vial containing the freeze-dried material.

After rehydration modified live vaccines are good only a few hours under perfect conditions. Exposure to sunlight and heat will inactivate them very quickly. Alcohol or any disinfectant applied to the needle between animals can kill a modified live vaccine if only a drop remains in the needle. For this reason, when you use a modified live vaccine refrain from disinfecting the needle between animals. You should use disposable needles.

If you are using a syringe and needle to make the diluent transfer, use a clean syringe for this purpose to avoid contamination of the entire vial with the syringe you are vaccinating with. You should also maintain a clean needle for withdrawing vaccine from the vial, avoiding the possibility of contamination by using the needle you are vaccinating with.

Always read the label directions on the vaccine label and follow them. Manufacturers often mix vaccines for the convenience of the user; however, never mix vaccines since they may not be compatible. Proper handling and storage of vaccines will enhance the development of a strong immunity to the diseases you are vaccinating for.