Costly risk of using a Vaccine Refrigerator without backup.

Is a battery backup generator a worthwhile investment to support your vaccine refrigerator?  In reaction to the tightening up of Medicare and CDC regulations of late, this question has possibly crossed your mind. 

Let’s explore this and see if there would be any potential savings, by purchasing a battery backup system for your refrigerator

Lab Vaccine Refrigerator and Freezer with Costly Medicine.jpg

What is at stake?


Maintaining the temperatures for vaccines is very critical and other than a possible equipment failure, or a careless staff mistake, a power outage is a very common way vaccines are lost. Unfortunately the practice does not have any control as to when the power fails.  There is no office procedures that can be implemented, or equipment maintenance that can be acquired to prevent a power failure from happening.  A standby generator or a UPS battery backup system is the only way a power failure to a refrigerator or freezer can be prevented. 

In many cases, the stored value of these medicines are quite costly, not to mention the inventory that is required to be stocked for Medicare patients.  Medicare will only cover a portion of lost vaccines and they are usually willing help out on the first occurrence only.  This raises the question is it worth investing in a backup battery for the refrigerator and/or freezer that stores the vaccine inventory of your practice?




How often do power outages occur? -  What is the likelihood you will lose power?


According to the EIA (US Energy Information Administration), of the avrage 210 grid outages there are an average 93 extended outages in the US each year effecting about 8.9 million energy consumers and this number has been increasing each year. This meansthat an extended power outage (which averages 18 hours) will like occur every 36.4 months. 

Of course these numbers can vary depending on where you are located in the country, but in the Northeast, the likelihood of extended power outages are quite high due to Nor’easter winter storms and Hurricanes like Superstorm Sandy.  Hurricanes also impact the Southeast and Gulf Coasts as we recently experienced with Hurricane Harvey and Erma.  The Mid-West gets riddled with power outages due to thunderstorms and tornados, even California and the Westcoast have many power outages due to the power grids being overloaded.


How much money in likely stored in your vaccine refrigerator?


The cost of the vaccines that are stored in a vaccine refrigerator do vary with the size and volume of the practice.   A typical practice may store a month’s supply however many of the pharmaceutical companies offer incentives for larger quantity orders this creates temptation to stock larger inventories.   

According to a study done by Athena Health, a small practice administers approximately 11,600 vaccine doses a year, mid-size offices administer about 68,000 and larger groups about 79,000 with an average cost of around $ 58.00 per dose. 

This means that if 1 months’ supply is kept within the practice inventory, the loss of vaccines due to a power outage can be anywhere from $ 39,000 to $ 400,000, depending on the size and volume the practice administers. 


The inconvenience and risk of transporting vaccines for an expected storm.


Weather related activities are the most common cause of power outages.  Many medical groups make it a common practice transport all their inventories to a hospital refrigerator when they know is storm is approaching.  

Transporting vaccines is risky because this creates a huge potential of exposing them to cooler or warmer temperatures than the mandates that are set forth by the CDC.

This it also becomes a Major record keeping issue with the office staff.  A record and log of the temperatures during transport has to be documented, and the correct transporting equipment is needed.  The practice's inventory has to be separated from Medicare inventory that is owned by the state or local health agency. 


ROI (return on investment) – for purchasing a battery backup system for a vaccine refrigerator:


This conclusion is based the information we gathered from the sources of which we relayed within this post, Here are some scenarios for various practices sizes:

Refrigerator Battery Backup ROI.bmp

Our research and our customers have proven that a battery backup is not only a financial and practical solution for power outages but also a patient safety benefit for any medical practice administering vaccines in a building without a standby generator.