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How To: Safe Administration of Vaccines
Infection Prevention

How To: Safe Administration of Vaccines

​​​​​​​Vaccinations are an important tool for building immunity to prevent illness, disability, and death resulting from infectious diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4 million deaths worldwide are prevented by childhood vaccination each year.

As with any medication, errors can occur during the prescribing, preparation, handling, storage, or administration of vaccines. Vaccination errors can affect not only the patient receiving the vaccine but also others who are exposed to the patient if infectious diseases reemerge.

The safe administration of vaccines depends on healthcare organizations adopting systems solutions for safe and effective management of a vaccination program. Healthcare organizations must also ensure healthcare staff are educated and demonstrate competency on proper storage and handling of vaccines, correct techniques for vaccine reconstitution and administration, and appropriate timing of vaccine administration according to evidence-based vaccine schedules. Healthcare organizations can help staff avoid errors by adopting systems solutions for safe and effective management of a vaccination program. In addition, physicians should be prepared to address questions and concerns from patients and parents related to vaccines and vaccination schedules, due to a recent rise in vaccine hesitancy.

Action Recommendations

  • Ensure that best practices for purchasing and ordering vaccines are followed and documented in organizational policies and procedures.
  • Establish policies and procedures to standardize processes through which vaccines are prepared and administered.
  • Follow safe vaccine storage and handling practices, and document them in written policies and procedures.
  • Engage patients and parents of pediatric patients in informed discussions about vaccines.
  • Document in patient medical records all discussions about vaccine risks and benefits and record distribution of vaccine information statements (VISs), as required by law.
  • Monitor vaccination rates and develop strategies for ongoing assessment and quality improvement.
  • Require staff to report vaccine errors and near misses to determine their causes and prevent similar mishaps.
  • Report adverse reactions to vaccines to external vaccine safety surveillance programs.
  • Check on the need for routine vaccinations and catch-up doses at every patient visit.
  • Consider reminder and recall systems to remind patients to schedule a visit for recommended or missed vaccines.
  • Develop and implement strategies to improve vaccination rates in underserved communities.
  • Instruct all staff on vaccine policies and procedures, including those for storage and handling, ordering and prescribing, administering, and documenting vaccines, at hiring and annually thereafter.
  • Provide competency-based training for staff on vaccine protocols and safety.​

Learn how ECRI can help you enhance vaccine safety with our infection prevention and control expertise.