We are often asked what is the best sample rate for vaccines. Or worse, we aren’t asked and we find out what some people are doing.
The worst option
Sampling once per day (or once every 4 hours depending on the logger’s capability) is the least effective approach. This is a hangover from the recording of the temperature once a day. However, what many overlook is that this once-a-day recording was essentially a summary of every minute over the past 24 hours, capturing both the minimum and maximum temperatures.
To illustrate, consider waiting on the street for a bus, keeping your eyes closed for 59 minutes and 50 seconds, and then opening them for 10 seconds to see if a bus is there. The chances of catching a bus with this approach are quite slim. Similarly, if you’re only sampling the temperature once a day, your chances of detecting a problem are limited. The issue could have persisted for a full 8 hours, but unless it coincides with your temperature check, you might completely overlook it.
The other extreme
The other extreme is to be recording values so often that you either have to retrieve the results every couple of days, or you are flooded with too many readings that are almost identical. And that’s like the kids in the back seat asking “Are we there yet?” It just gets annoying after a while. So how often is probably too often? Once a minute.
A good compromise
A sampling rate for vaccines ranging from 5 minutes to 30 minutes represents the two extremes, but we would recommend considering a range of 10 to 20 minutes. This range strikes a good compromise between obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the temperature conditions and avoiding an overwhelming amount of data.
Why collect the data?
Ask yourself why you are monitoring the temperature. There are basically two answers:
1. To prove that the fridges are working correctly and that the vaccines have been correctly stored
2. To find out when a problem occurred, how bad it was, and how long it lasted
And it is for the second reason that the sampling rate becomes important. If something does go wrong and the fridge starts to warm up, all you know is that it started somewhere between the first high temperature and the previous good reading. With a sample rate of 15 minutes, that means it happened in that 15-minute gap. Likewise, you don’t know when it returned to normal except that it happened between the last high reading and the next good reading. Once again a 15 minute gap. So if it was too warm for 3 hours worth of readings, it may have been too warm for up to 3.5 hours. That’s a reasonably accurate time frame.
But if you were only sampling once every 4 hours then it is possible to have missed it totally, or at best there is only one reading within that period. That means you don’t know if it lasted 10 minutes or up to 8 hours.
A definitive answer
We can’t give you a definitive answer for what is the best sample rate for vaccines, but we can say there are extremes that aren’t worth considering for most people. Many companies have their own policy and hopefully, it is based on knowledge and common sense.
If in doubt, 15 minutes. Why not. It’s a good starting point for conversations.