Objectives: To document and characterize freezing temperatures in the Indonesian vaccine cold chain and to evaluate the feasibility of changes designed to reduce the occurrence of freezing.
Methods: Data loggers were used to measure temperatures of shipments of hepatitis B vaccine from manufacturer to point of use. Baseline conditions and three intervention phases were monitored. During each of the intervention phases, vaccines were removed progressively from the standard 2-8 degrees C cold chain.
Findings: Freezing temperatures were recorded in 75% of baseline shipments. The highest rates of freezing occurred during transport from province to district, storage in district-level ice-lined refrigerators, and storage in refrigerators in health centres. Interventions reduced freezing, without excessive heat exposure.
Conclusions: Inadvertent freezing of freeze-sensitive vaccines is widespread in Indonesia. Simple strategies exist to reduce freezing - for example, selective transport and storage of vaccines at ambient temperatures. The use of vaccine vial monitors reduces the risk associated with heat-damaged vaccines in these scenarios. Policy changes that allow limited storage of freeze-sensitive vaccines at temperatures >2-8 degrees C would enable flexible vaccine distribution strategies that could reduce vaccine freezing, reduce costs, and increase capacity.