Press Release

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

December 09, 2020
(Photo/Ricardo Carrasco III)

(Originally posted at HSC News.)

At least two promising COVID-19 vaccines are in final review by the FDA, whose emergency use authorization will allow for distribution in the United States. In anticipation of an upcoming vaccine, Keck Medicine of USC has been working with university leadership to plan for this major development, including how to distribute the vaccine in the most widely beneficial way possible.

Some details of the complex, fast-moving program are still being finalized. Initial supplies of the vaccine will be limited. Distribution is expected to begin next week and will be prioritized for people with the greatest need.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is the vaccine safe?
    • 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. Keck Medicine will continue to monitor data as it becomes available. People with a history of anaphylactic response are asked not to take vaccine at this time.
  • Do people need to wear a mask after getting the vaccine?
    • 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.
  • Who will receive the vaccine first?
    • Keck Medicine will follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health for phased distribution of the vaccine. The first group of people to receive the vaccine will include health care workers, first responders, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
  • Can children receive the vaccine?
    • At this time, we do not have data about children and this vaccine. Some of the vaccines are currently running trials for children, but we do not have the results of that data yet.
  • What side effects should people expect after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
    • Some physical side effects are normal after receiving the vaccine. People may experience local site inflammation, fever, headaches, muscle pain and body aches. Most people seem to recover from these side effects within a day or two. These symptoms can occur anytime within the first 10 days after vaccination.
  • Why do the vaccines need to be administered in 2 doses?
    • 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.
  • How long does the vaccine’s protection last?
    • The vaccine produces a robust immune response for at least 3 months. We continue to monitor data as it becomes available.
  • Will COVID-19 vaccines cause me to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests?
    • 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.
  • What steps are being taken to ensure safe delivery and storage of the vaccine? 
    • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a cold-chain distribution system to transport and store them. Keck Medicine has developed these systems, including securing 6 specialty freezers for this purpose.
  • How will Keck Medicine employees receive the vaccine?
    • Employees will be offered the vaccine at Keck Medicine locations. They will be able to make an appointment to receive both doses of the vaccine.

Vaccines are crucial tools in the fight against deadly infectious diseases. When the vaccine becomes available to you, we strongly encourage that you receive it.

For more information, visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

California Department of Public Health:

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health: