Cold chain breaches and excursions 

Definition of a cold chain breach

A breach occurs when the vaccines have been stored outside the required temperature range. Cold chain breaches can occur even in well-designed and well-managed systems. However, if there are effective monitoring processes in place, problems will be detected and managed before a cold chain excursion and failure occur, i.e. administration of the damaged vaccine.

Cold chain excursion

•    Vaccines have been stored or transported in temperatures outside the recommended range (+2⁰C to +8⁰C)
•    Vaccines ARE compromised and must be returned for destruction

Cold chain failure

•    Compromised vaccines from a cold chain excursion are administered to clients
•    Clients must be revaccinated

Advice for managing cold chain breaches

•    Quarantine the vaccines
•    Maintain the vaccines within the cold chain and label them ‘Not for use’ while advice is obtained and inform colleagues.
•    Check the digital thermometer, other monitors if available, and download the data logger.
•    Contact your Immunisation/Cold Chain Coordinator (IC) for advice or COVID Regional Immunisation Advisor (CRIA). Do not dispose of any vaccines until advised to do so by your Immunisation/Cold Chain Coordinator or CRIA. Ensure all the advice received and actions taken are documented.
•    Your IC/CRIA is required to inform the Ministry of Health Immunisation Team if any patients require recall or re-immunisation.
•    Providers are required to ensure an appropriate emergency plan and equipment are always available for use, e.g. chilly bin, packing/insulation materials, ice packs, refrigerator at an alternate location, and monitoring equipment.
•    To document cold chain breaches and excursions, use the IMAC COVID-19 Cold Chain Reporting Form 


Last updated: 14 June 2022