Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Reply from Cal Vet

This is the pouch, although it's just taped together, not a real pouch.
How insulative do you think something this thin is? Because this is what this person, in e-mail below from Cal Vet Supply, describes as far superior to sytrofoam. Oh really. Let's do an experiment and see about that.

Packing, upon arrival. One ice pack, completely mush and melted. Vaccines and ice pack wrapped in brown paper and inside the 1/16 inch material.
Package, after it got here Friday, before I opened it.

It is difficult to comprehend the lack of customer service from this company. They talk about their superior shipping bags, and yet, the "bags" are taped together silver type reflective insulation, about 1/16 inch thick. This stuff comes in various thicknesses in huge roles you can buy by the foot at Home Depot. I get thicker sheets of it to line feral housing units. Her claims that this is far superior to the shipping methods done by other companies, that of putting them in little styrofoam ice chests with ice packs, I think are ridiculous. If they can't pack to keep them cold for Fed Ex two day air, they should not be offering that.

She also claims I could not possibly have gotten the correct temp once they arrived because I must not have used a refrigerator thermometer. Actually, that's exactly what I used. Gosh.

Well, it's interesting to read about vaccine shipping and storage worldwide, for humans. Guess it's a big problem, maintaining the cold chain, through shipping. WHO requires a cold chain monitor card in each shipment container. They have dots and if it's black, the shipping temp cold chain has not been maintained and the vaccines should not be used. Most vaccines lose potency quickly if exposed to heat or to cold, depending greatly on the type of vaccine. Again, if you use them quickly, after shipped, even if they were exposed to temperature, probably protection is ok.

Even the most stable vaccines cannot be allowed to get above 85 F for long or must be discarded, a figure I found on a WHO website, regarding other types of vaccines. Unfortunately, if these vaccines registered after 15 minutes in my place, which was at 68 degrees, at 70, I'm going to bet, sitting in a hot Fed Ex truck all day Friday, before delivery here, they were way above that. It was hot that day. Fed Ex told me their trucks are not climate controlled. It's like being shut in a metal box with the sun beating down.

It seems strange in ways, to consider all this. To think, you never really know if a vaccine is good or not, if it has been too hot or too cold, affecting it's ability to protect. I wonder if that has anything to do with why some cats get herpes, etc, even though vaccinated, while some who are vaccinated don't. Do some get "better vaccines" and so get better protected, especially when young? Just makes me wonder and wish there was a way to really know if a vaccine is still good or not. A dot that fades or something, on each vial. Color change with degradation. Something. Would that not be nice? How in the world do they measure potency anyhow, I wonder. It's very interesting stuff.

The thin silver material is used to reflect heat, like off your car windshield. It has little insulative value in itself by being dense enough to stall heat waves passing through it. The taped together package, instead of being continuous surface allows cold to escape, heat in.

Anyway, this is myth buster type puzzle. I think I'll see how long it takes the ice pack to melt just sitting out on a counter. Course I keep the house at about 70 degrees and temps inside a metal truck with outside temps unknown but likely between 90 and 100 is still an unknown to me. Then I'll put the pack taped into the insulative material just in my garage and see how long it takes to melt and what temps inside result, just as a matter of interest. I don't think they would be interested in the results. I need a temp probe on a line with remote read thermometer, to really do it right. But I have a curiosity now.

Then I'd like to repeat using the ice chest method most companies use in shipping vaccines. I would think the dense thick styrofoam would be far superior at keeping cole in. They're also air tight when taped as the edges of top and bottom meet evenly.

I've always wondered how they come up with the one ml bottle, or if half that is good enough, and why is it the same volume given the considerable differences in size, even of cats. If nothing else comes of this, if I don't get my money back, I have at least enjoyed reading a slew of papers about vaccine cold chain maintenance and importance. I have failed to find one single authority I could directly ask. I am going to guess the shipped package reached inside temps of over 80 degrees, degrading their potency, to be usable for very long, but for how long seems gray area. One site listed some vaccines that if they are exposed to heat over 75 F, have potency effective for protection only four days afterwards. I don't know how they determine that.

I love Myth Busters. They remind me of my college days. They imploy the scientific method in busting or confirming myths. I remember professors emphasizing the scientific method. I can't remember the details by now. But I think you control every factor except the one factor you are testing for, and you first create a baseline. And, the experiment must be repeatable by another source with the same outcome.

In this dilemma with the vaccines, there are two points of contention. The first is that the ice pack maintained them well within the suggested temperature range. I might be able to test that, except I can't exactly reproduce the temperatures the pack was exposed to in transit. The second point of contention is that it doesn't matter if they got hot for even two days. This is something I can't test. I can't test to see if they are still potent, and, more importantly, if two months from now, after exposure to heat in shipping, they will be any good. I have to throw that one out and go by government guidelines on the matter, that say if they are exposed to heat, their potency declines as does the time they are good.

I wonder if they teach that in college now, the scientific method. When was in college, it was everything, the methods of discovery for valid research. Every science class it was emphasized.

So, I have to fall back to "what would my vet do" and my vet says "don't use them" and what would the FDA say, and the FDA said "Don't use them" and what temperature does the vial say they should be kept at and it says between 2 and 7 degrees C. That's all I have to go by in the end. It sucks to be a consumer sometimes. Fumbling around, trying not to get screwed, not knowing who the people are you're paying, if they're honest and upright, etc.

The cal vet people turned me off with their rude responses and lack of humanity in customer service. If they're so pet friendly, why didn't they mention any concern about the rescued kittens I was vaccinating. Even just saying "I can understand you want those cute kittens to be adequately protected." Or why not just send off a copy of a paper from the government of vaccine shipping guidelines, to show they shipped as required and temperature maintenance in shipping isn't important (that's what they claim). Just makes me really skeptical. But, bottom line, I wasn't looking for a friend in a customer service rep. Scammers and con artists, after all, are the best at customer service. I just want good vaccines.

Whatever whatever.

The reply:

"Thank you for your further communication, and I need to say that this, also, is MY last communication on this subject.

First, you said we had a "recommended" shipping method of Fed Ex 2 Day Air on our website. NO, we don't recommend or push any one shipping option over another. Again, you were completely free and welcome to choose Fed Ex Next Day air, which would have gotten the package to you by 10:30 the next day. You chose the less expensive 2 Day Air.

Since you've apparently not read the policy as stated on our website, let me supply it here for you to review:

Perishable items on our website are those items that need to be kept cold during shipment, thus requiring they be sent in an insulated freezer bag with sufficient ice packs. Whenever these items are ordered, only the Fed Ex 2 Day Air / Perishable Package or Fed Ex Standard Overnight / Perishable Package options will be offered for shipping. Both of these shipping options cover up to 6 lbs. These are guaranteed shipments and as long as the 2 Day Air orders arrive in 2 business days and the Standard Overnight orders arrive within 1 business day, there are no returns, refunds or credits issued for perishable items.


Second, you keep mentioning that you used a thermometer to test the temperature of the package. Unless you used a refrigerator thermometer, which you didn't say you did, your temperature reading is totally useless. Mercury or digital thermometers for oral/rectal use don't register temperatures much less than the human body temperature 98.6 degrees. The fact that you're telling me that a regular thermometer was somehow reading 70 degrees actually proves my point - it was trying to read a temperature lower than that, but was unable to. I can only assume that the thermometer you used certainly was not equipped to measure anything in the 60 to 50 degree range or less. What happened here is that you saw a "mushy" ice pack and immediately assumed the package had to be at room temperature, then used a thermometer that backed up your assumption. Had you used a refrigerator thermometer, it would have been a different story, THAT I can guarantee.

And finally, I completely resent the fact that you are attacking the integrity of a company that has been in business for 26 years, supplying pet owners with quality products at the best prices and customer service possible. I have told you that I spoke at length with a trusted professional with Fort Dodge Animal Health years ago to find out the truth about vaccines, and you are basically calling me a liar. I have also told you that we use the silver insulated bags to ship vaccines because they have proven to be superior to styrofoam for keeping things as cold as possible for as long as possible. We have switched brands of ice packs over the years also until we found the ones we currently use, because they are the best. We charge people for a perishable shipping package so that we can be free to use those quality bags and plenty of those best ice packs so that our customers have a good experience purchasing perishable items from us. I'm truly sorry that all of our ethical and professional attitudes and efforts appear to be completely lost on you."

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