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State Struggles to Keep Vaccines Stored at Correct Temperature

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RALEIGH — Dozens of children are headed back to the doctor in Lillington to be immunized again. A refrigeration problem rendered the vaccines useless, and health workers say they have a tough time making sure coolers at doctors' offices are accurate.

State health workers found the Lillington Family Medical Center was storing its vaccines in a refrigerator that was too cold. Parents of children who received shots in the past six months will receive notices that the vaccinations will have to be given again.

Vaccines must be kept in refrigerators that are, for the most part, between 35 degrees and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

Someone has to be responsible for constantly checking the temperature. If the refrigerator is too hot or too cold, the vaccine may not work.

The vaccines are shipped to health departments and doctors' offices across the state. Consultants visit those sites to check the temperatures of their refrigerators, but there are only nine consultants checking 1,200 sites.

Most consultants have as many as 17 counties that they must monitor each day, says Jeff Rivenbark with thestate's immunization office.

"It's really up to the local people to make sure that the vaccine is handled property," he says.

Health officials do not think the problem is widespread. They believe most doctors and nurses are careful about keeping their refrigerators at the right temperature.

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Scott Mason, Reporter
Jay Jennings, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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