• Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Storage & Handling

How can I transport varicella vaccine? What if I do not have access to a portable freezer?

The vaccine manufacturer does not recommend transporting varicella-containing vaccines (varicella, MMRV). If these vaccines must be transported (for example during an emergency), CDC recommends use of a portable vaccine freezer unit or qualified container and packout that maintains temperatures between -50°C and -15°C (- 8°F and +5°F). Do not use dry ice, even for temporary storage. Dry ice might expose the vaccines to temperatures colder than -50°C (-58°F), resulting in compromise of the vial stopper material.

Follow these steps for transporting frozen vaccines:

  • Place a temperature monitoring device (preferably with a buffered probe) in the container as close as possible to the vaccines.
  • Immediately upon arrival at the destination, unpack the vaccines and place them in a freezer at a temperature range between -50°C and -15°C (-58°F and +5°F). Any stand-alone freezer or freezer purpose built for vaccine storage that maintains these temperatures is acceptable.
  • Record the time vaccines are removed from the storage unit and placed in the transport container, the temperature during transport, and the time at the end of transport when vaccines are placed in a stable storage unit.

If necessary, varicella-containing vaccines may be transported or stored at refrigerator temperature between 2°C and 8°C (between 36°F and 46°F) for up to 72 continuous hours prior to reconstitution. To do so, follow the steps above using a portable vaccine refrigerator unit or a qualified container and packout designed to maintain vaccine storage temperatures between 2°C and 8°C (between 36°F and 46°F).

Transport of varicella-containing vaccine at temperatures other than the recommended range between -50°C and -15°C (-58°F and +5°F) is considered a temperature excursion, so contact Merck at (800) 982-7482 for further guidance. Do not discard vaccines without contacting the manufacturer and/or your immunization program for guidance.

For additional guidance, see the CDC Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/admin/storage/toolkit/storage-handling-toolkit.pdf.

Last reviewed: May 16, 2023

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