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GPs' refrigerators that do not work properly or are overfilled may be damaging the efficacy of vaccines, quality control experts warn.

The South East London vaccine incident working group concluded that GPs and practice staff needed improved training on the handling and storage of vaccines.

The group's report, published on the National Electronic Library for Medicines website, said: 'There have been worrying reports recently that vaccine refrigerators designed to maintain storage temperatures are not performing to their specifications.'

The report also warned that filling fridges to more than 50 per cent capacity could damage temperature regulation.

Kim Causer, author of the report and a community services pharmacist at Bexley care trust in south London, called for national standards on vaccine fridges.

Mrs Causer said: 'People do not realise how important it is. If subsequently someone goes on to develop that disease you don't know if they have not been able to produce the antibodies or whether it's due to incorrect storage.'

She said some GPs continued to believe domestic fridges were acceptable and urged practices to monitor their fridge temperatures more carefully.

Dr Brian Crichton, a GP in Solihull, Birmingham, who has carried out research on drug storage, said: 'I would call for much more scrutiny in relation to the storage of vaccines. You need to be obsessive in relation to recording the temperatures accurately.'

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