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Vaccines > Varicella
Varicella Vaccine--
Storage & Handling

Questions and Answers
Clinical questions & answers 

Questions and links to answers:

  1. How should the vaccine be stored?
  2. What if vaccine is in refrigerator instead of freezer?
  3. What should be done with vaccine in case of power outage?
  4. How can the vaccine be safely transported to off-site clinics?
  5. Does Merck replace your vaccine if you mishandle it?


Go to other pages of related questions:


  1. How should the vaccine be stored?

Varicella vaccine must be kept frozen at an average temperature of -15C (+5F) or colder. Most relatively new frost-free freezers will maintain this temperature, but older dormitory-style refrigerators without a separate freezer compartment are not adequate. We strongly suggest that freezer temperature be carefully checked prior to ordering vaccine. The diluent should be kept separately in the refrigerator or at room temperature. The vaccine must be administered within 30 minutes of reconstitution.

  1. What if varicella vaccine is inadvertently placed in the refrigerator instead of the freezer?

Do not administer the vaccine until you have consulted with Merck. The expiration date of the vaccine will be affected. The mishandled vaccine should be clearly marked and should be immediately placed in the freezer, separate from vaccine that has been properly handled. Call the Merck Vaccine Division at 1-800-9VARIVAX. If the vaccine has been kept cold at all times, and has been refrigerated for less than 72 hours, the company will probably recommend that you change the expiration date on the package and use the vaccine as soon as possible.

  1. What should be done with varicella vaccine in case of a power outage?

If varicella vaccine is thawed for any reason, including a power failure, you must consult the manufacturer for advice before using the vaccine. Try to estimate the temperature that the vaccine was exposed to (that is, the highest temperature that your freezer reached), and the length of time that the vaccine was at that temperature. If the vaccine was at least cold at all times, but not kept frozen at -15C or colder for less than 72 hours, the company will probably recommend changing the expiration date and using the vaccine as soon as possible. To help maintain vaccines at cold temperatures during power failures, we recommend that you always keep extra ice or cold packs in the freezer compartment.

  1. How can varicella vaccine be safely transported to off-site clinics?

If the vaccine will be used within 72 hours and a good assessment can be made as to the number of doses that will be needed, varicella vaccine can be transported with regular ice. However, unused vaccine must be discarded after 72 hours at refrigerator temperatures. If transport and use will exceed 72 hours it will be necessary to transfer the vaccine in a high-quality ice chest with dry ice. Temperature must be monitored carefully to assure that adequate temperature (-15C or +5F) has been maintained.

  1. Does Merck replace your vaccine if you mishandle it?

No. If the vaccine is damaged as a result of mishandling after it was received, Merck will not replace it. Merck will only replace vaccine that has been improperly shipped (no dry ice in the box), damaged or destroyed during shipping to your clinic, or if vaccine is damaged because of natural disasters.


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This page last modified on February 15, 2001


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