Storage and Use of Vaccines for Swine

Dr. Marvin W. McCallister, DVM, Veterinary Services Branch

In order to receive the most benefit from the use of vaccines or other injectable drugs, and to avoid the risk of injury or carcass damage, it is imperative that these products be used with utmost care at all times. The following protocol should become part of an every day routine.

  1. All vaccines need to be stored at refrigerator temperature. Use a cooler to transport them home from the veterinary clinic. Keep an ice pack in your tray at pen side if you are doing a group of pigs; however, do not freeze vaccines.
  2. If the mixing of vials is necessary, always use a sterile transfer needle and only prepare sufficient vaccine that will be used up quickly.
  3. Use entire contents of the vial when first opened. A reconstituted modified live vaccine is useless the next day.
  4. Use a sterile needle to remove product from the vial. Each time a pig is injected micro-organisms will be picked up from the skin. When this same needle is used to withdraw contents from the bottle of vaccine, the entire contents will become contaminated.
  5. Clean multiple use syringes thoroughly. Sterilize syringes in boiling water. Residues from disinfectants may kill a modified live vaccine or adversely react to substances in a killed vaccine. Change needles frequently preferably after every 10 - 12 pigs. Dull needles cause injection site damages and may actually allow leakage of the vaccine from the site. As well, the needles become more contaminated after each use and may cause infection and subsequent development of an abscess at the injection site. Bent needles must not be straightened and reused. The risk of these needles breaking off inside the animal is too high and must be avoided. If a needle does break off in the animal, immediately take steps to identify it. If you are unable to retrieve the needle, that pig may still go to slaughter in due time, but it must be well identified and reported to the processor at the time of delivery.
  6. Find a clean injection site. The Canadian Quality Assurance Program for hog producers specifies that all injections be done in the neck. Be sure the animals are properly restrained to avoid poor injections and broken needles. Avoid the injection of wet or dirty pigs.
  7. Use the size of needles appropriate for the size of pig being vaccinated or the route of injection. A 11/2" needle is necessary to give a mature sow an intramuscular injection, whereas a 1" needle would be appropriate for a grower. Remember that there is a fairly thick layer of fat that the needle must penetrate to get to the muscle. Vaccines are quite watery therefore an 18 gauge needle is sufficient, whereas most antibiotics are very thick and require a larger size i.e., 16 gauge needle.
  8. Read the label carefully before each use paying particular attention to information about proper injection site, dosage, type of animals to be used on, and the withdrawal time to slaughter. The label insert should be stored along with all other drug labels for future reference.
  9. Administer only to healthy animals.
  10. Dispose of used needles and vials in properly identified hard plastic "sharps" storage containers so that they can be safely transported to the nearest landfill site for disposal.
  11. Record all of the necessary information such as date, name of product used, identification of individuals or pens, withdrawal time etc on the "Treatment Record Chart" of your Quality Assurance manual. If sows are being vaccinated, the date and product used should be recorded on each individual sow card.
  12. The usage of any vaccine or drug must be in accordance with the protocol set out in the "Medication and Vaccine Usage Plan", which needs to be reviewed periodically with your veterinarian.
  13. Occasionally an animal will have an allergic reaction to the product injected. Epinephrine is the drug used to treat these reactions. Producers should discuss the use of epinephrine with their veterinarian, who may recommend that they keep this drug on hand.

Many of the above principles apply to the other types of injectable drugs used by the swine producer as well. The "Precaution" section of the drug label is generally where it is indicated if refrigeration or protection from light is necessary, or if it can just be stored at room temperature. The "Warning" section provides the slaughter withdrawal information.

All equipment and products should be stored in a dust proof cupboard in a room away from high traffic areas, preferably with a sink for cleanup. Many producers have found an old fridge to put in the barn, and it is a good idea to occasionally put a thermometer in it to be sure it is keeping your products as cool as required. Be sure that the product labels are in a handy spot nearby. Do not leave opened vials sitting out in alleyways, and especially do not leave needles inserted in vials, as this is a sure way to contaminate them.

Only with the proper handling and storage of vaccines and drugs will these products work the way they are intended to, as well as minimising the risk of causing harmful effects to the recipient animals.