USC Keck receives its first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

What to expect in the coming months and who will be prioritized in receiving the vaccine.

USC’s Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman confirmed in a briefing on Dec. 17 that the first vaccines arrived at the Keck medical facilities that afternoon.

According to Van Orman, the first shipment included 2,500 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and will be distributed to health care workers in the USC community.

“Part of what we’re doing right now with the vaccine is we really want to start building excitement about it, educating people, getting people ready,” Van Orman said. “But also, we’re not going to have enough supplies of vaccine to get people vaccinated to prevent the serious situation we’re in right now.”

Per state and local guidelines of a tier system, USC health care workers will be vaccinated first, then essential employees who work on campus on a daily basis, such as those working in housing, facilities and environmental services.

“The vaccine, we think, is going to make a difference, but it’s going to take several months to get enough people vaccinated,” Van Orman emphasized.

Addressing concerns about the storage and administration of the vaccine in a Dec. 15 press conference, Chief Pharmacy Officer at Keck Krist Azizian affirmed that the vaccines were closely monitored at a secured pharmacy location. In order to ensure the integrity of the vaccine, the hospital had to purchase six refrigerators to provide storage at the proper temperature.

According to Azizian, there is a 5-day expiration date once the vaccines arrive. All doses received in any given shipment must be administered in that time frame. The hospital projects to begin vaccinations within four to five hours of receiving any shipments.

“At this rate, we are looking at 400 to 500 individuals getting vaccinated a day to be able to go through the number of doses we receive,” Azizian said.

Neha Nanda, medical director of infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship at Keck Medicine of USC, recommended in the press conference that all willing groups should plan to take the vaccine when available.

“We want to be inclusive in this effort because, looking at the scientific studies, the risks are really minimal, if at all. This is based on two months’ safety data. I think the fact that it has received an Emergency Use Authorization by the scientific branch of the FDA is very encouraging,” Nanda said.

Those who have previously contracted COVID-19 will still be eligible to receive the vaccine, but it is likely that those who have similar risks but have not contracted the virus will be prioritized, Nanda said.

According to Nanda, after receiving the vaccine, one may expect to feel fatigued and have mild headaches, as well as a lower chance of running a fever. Nanda said the symptoms typically resolve within two days. These side effects are likely to be heightened in the second dose of the vaccine.

While the vaccine is a win for communities around the world, other precautions are still important.

“As we get closer to changing our lives, we have to give importance to all other tools we have in our pocket,” Nanda said. “That’s masking, physical distancing, testing, contact tracing, we have to respect all of those. However, with time, when 70% of the population is vaccinated, at that time we will likely have some normalcy in our day to day lives. Until then, let’s just hardwire masking and physical distancing.”

To see the vaccines arriving at the facilities, as well as staff testimonials and freezer information, visit COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution.