After spending the last year grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, coronavirus vaccines are finally rolling out across the United States. With millions of residents needing inoculations, time is truly of the essence. And in order to maintain quality measures of these vaccines, proper temperature storage is crucial.

Vaccine manufacturers are now choosing to rely on alternatives to dry ice for both storage and distribution. That brings us to an increased interest in cryogenic labels. But what exactly are cryo labels and why are they so important? Let’s take a closer look.

What Are Cryogenic Labels?

Cryogenic labels, sometimes known simply as cryo labels, refer to a specific type of pharmaceutical labeling that’s made to withstand ultra-cold temperatures. These adhesive labels and other materials (like polyester) are engineered to hold up under cryogenic conditions. These conditions can range from -150 degrees Celsius or -238 degrees Fahrenheit to what’s known as absolute zero (defined as -273 degrees Celsius or -460 degrees Fahrenheit) — the temperature at which all molecular motion comes as close as possible to a complete stop. In other words, these temperatures are colder than most of us could ever imagine.

Cryogenic labels are designed in a way that may look similar to other adhesive labels. However, the adhesive label design of cryo labels utilizes a specially formulated adhesive that will offer a much stronger, consistent hold in ultra-cold conditions. The label itself is often made of polyester, but the adhesive portion is what really matters here. Without this unique adhesive, it would essentially be impossible to guarantee consistent labeling of pharmaceutical products when cryogenic storage is required.

Cryogenic labels have a number of uses, but they’re frequently used in vaccine storage and distribution. Because vaccines must be kept in extremely cold conditions to protect potency, they need labels that can withstand those environmental conditions. Cryo labels are also utilized in other types of pharmaceutical cold chain storage. No matter how they are used, cryogenic labels are made to be stored in extremely cold temperatures for extended periods without jeopardizing label integrity.

Why Are Cryogenic Labels Necessary?

As stated above, many types of vaccines — including COVID-19 vaccines — must be stored or transported in incredibly cold temperatures to maintain proper quality. Utilizing traditional adhesive label printing for these purposes simply won’t do. A regular adhesive label will undoubtedly fall off of the sample during cryogenic storage because the adhesive itself is not designed to hold up in those cold temperatures.

That, unfortunately, can jeopardize the integrity of the medication or vaccine that’s being stored or distributed.

Without proper labeling, that product can not safely be administered. Because annual medication errors cost between $5.8 billion and $27.3 billion worldwide, with 7,000 people dying every year due to inappropriately dispensed drugs, it’s of the utmost importance that pharmaceutical products are labeled properly.

Specifically, cryo labels are designed to adhere to more challenging vessels and pharmaceutical containers. Because these containers have an impressive curvature combined with a smaller diameter, many adhesives can’t retain their hold even in room-temperature conditions. But because these vessels are commonly used for cryogenic storage and distribution, it becomes even more essential that pharmaceutical labeling will continue to adhere to them in extreme temperatures.

Cryogenic labels are designed to provide a strong hold to a variety of materials, including plastics, glass, and metals. These adhesive labels will adhere to these curved surfaces in a consistent manner, allowing these products to be stored in a way that ensures compliance. What’s more, the adhesive used in cryogenic labels has undergone stringent testing to ensure it can withstand both low-temperature storage and high-speed production conditions. As a result, these labels are able to be used in selected COVID-19 vaccine distribution and in other types of cold chain logistics.

How Can My Company Obtain Cryogenic Labels?

Of course, pharmaceutical labeling needs to be accessible to manufacturers and distributors that need it. One great thing about cryogenic labels is that they’re compatible with a number of different adhesive label printing techniques (and can even be written on manually) to ensure essential information remains legible throughout the storage and distribution process.

But, of course, manufacturers and pharmaceutical labeling companies need to find a company that can guarantee compliance with a variety of pharmaceutical labeling requirements and provide labels that can withstand these extreme temperatures. Specifically, Luminer offers unique capabilities in this area that other label printing companies cannot. We can actually utilize the adhesive used in cryogenic labeling for other types of labels, including multi-page booklet labels, to accommodate your company’s individual needs. Whether you need to label small vaccine-type vials or you’re looking for a more robust label option, we can address your concerns and ensure that your customized commercial labels will fulfill each and every requirement for your product.

What Should I Consider Before Using Cryogenic Labels?

There are a number of considerations you’ll need to take into account when deciding to use cryogenic labeling for your pharmaceutical products. For one thing, you’ll need to determine the stage of cryogenic storage in which your products will be stored, as temperature variations from stage to stage can impact which type of cryogenic label you might need. You’ll also want to consider any other types of environmental exposure your products could undergo during the process, such as extreme heat, harsh chemicals, abrasive substances, or liquid nitrogen storage. At some point, you will also need to decide whether you have the capacity to print your cryo labels in-house or whether you’ll need to rely on an outside source for your pharmaceutical labeling. For the sake of consistency and cost-savings, most companies will choose to outsource their pharmaceutical labeling needs to a trusted company that can address their cryo labeling concerns.

At a time when it’s never been more important that Americans receive the protection they need against highly infectious diseases, cryogenic labeling plays an essential role in public health. When you’re dealing with temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products, you can’t afford to take a chance on your labeling or packaging. Cryo labeling is just one way to ensure these products can be stored and distributed in a way that ensures safety and overall compliance. To learn more about how cryogenic labeling can help you achieve your goals of maintaining compliance, consistency, and safety, please contact Luminer today.