COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

In clinical trials for vaccines produced by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, participants did not experience any life-threatening events that were attributed to the vaccine. People with a history of anaphylactic response to vaccines are asked not to take vaccine at this time. Those with food or environmental allergies can receive the vaccine. Keck Medicine will continue to monitor data as it becomes available.

Yes, people should still wear masks even after receiving the vaccine. Until we learn more about the protection COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue wearing a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Some physical side effects are normal after receiving the vaccine. People may experience local site inflammation, fever, headaches, muscle pain and body aches. These symptoms are more frequent after the second dose. The symptoms typically resolve within 1-2 days.

It’s important in some diseases, like COVID, to prime the body to get an optimal immune response. The first dose primes the immune system — prepares the body to respond appropriately to the next dose and form antibodies. That first dose helps ensure a robust immune response that will get coded into the memory cells in the body. These are the cells we will rely on when we see COVID-19 next time around.

As of right now, we understand that the vaccine produces a robust immune response for at least 3 months. However, as time goes by, we will learn more.

No. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA-based — essentially a code that tells the body to make protein that will generate an immune response. That protein alone is not the virus, and so won’t trigger a positive test result.

On 12/18, we announced that Keck Medical Center of USC and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital received their first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and we immediately began inoculating hospital workers most at risk for infection.

Given the fast-moving developments in shipments of the first approved vaccine, and the recent emergency use authorization of the second vaccine, the timeframe for vaccine availability is being updated nearly daily. Please visit the USC COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout page for more details about USC's phased distribution approach.

On 12/3, Rod Hanners, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Keck Medicine of USC, announced that he is the chair of USC's vaccine working group, which is principally engaged in developing an evidence-based strategy for the vaccination of USC staff, faculty, students, and patients. The group will also support efforts for the vaccination of the community at large. Its members include:

  • USC Provost, Charles F. Zukoski;
  • Interim Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Narsing Rao;
  • Dean of the USC School of Pharmacy, Vassilios Papadopoulos; and
  • Interim Vice President and Executive Director of Capital Construction and Facilities Management, Christopher Toomey

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health has thus far distributed and approved vaccines for Phase 1A: health care workers, clinical and medical students and others in the health care environment. Phase 1B (group 1, 65 years old and older only) began in February. Workers in emergency services, education, childcare, and food and agriculture are in the next group of 1B, expected to begin March 1.

Yes. Current data indicates that vaccinated individuals may be able to transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 to others, even if they themselves do not develop the illness.

Many in our community are anxious to receive a vaccine and may hear from others who have been vaccinated even though they are not in a priority group. When our Keck vaccine sites occasionally have extra doses that must be administered within a few hours or discarded, our teams may quickly identify individuals on site or nearby who can be immunized within a short time frame. These represent a very small number of total vaccines and we work to provide them to those who are at risk rather than wasting them.

Starting March 1, the university will invite those working on campus who are public-facing and working in close contact with others to receive their vaccinations. In the meantime, we urge you to follow announcements from LA County Dept. of Public Health and the City of Los Angeles for openings of mass vaccination sites, appointments, and eligibility verification that is required (work ID, paystub, etc.).

Those working on campus who are public-facing and working in close contact with others will be invited by the university. Don’t hesitate to make the appointment because you think the dose should go to someone else. Every vaccination counts, and making your appointment quickly helps the efficiency of getting doses into arms. In the meantime, there may also be appointments available through the county and city beginning March 1. We urge you to follow announcements from LA County Dept. of Public Health and the City of Los Angeles for openings of mass vaccination sites, appointments, and eligibility verification that is required (work ID, paystub, etc.).

Keck Medicine of USC is administering vaccines — based on weekly vaccine availability — at clinical facilities and is open to current patients and the public, when doses are available, to the following: people 65 or older; people ages 16 to 64 who work in health care, education and childcare, emergency services or food and agriculture. Sign-ups are on a first-come, first-served basis, whether a member of the public or the USC community. Waitlists are not available at this time. Appointments are required. Visit the Keck Medicine COVID-19 vaccine website for appointment availability and scheduling information.

For more comprehensive information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit the Keck Medicine of USC Coronavirus Vaccine resource center.