USC pharmacies waiting for new COVID-19 vaccines

Pharmacies are aiming for the end of the month after CDC and FDA approval.

USC pharmacies are on standby to distribute updated COVID-19 vaccines after the Food and Drug Administration approved new mRNA vaccines, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer, this Monday.

“We’re projecting at the end of this month,” USC pharmacist Katty Hsu said in an interview with Annenberg Radio News. “But as soon as we get the stock we’ll disseminate the information, as we always do.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new recommendation for 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccines this Tuesday, after the FDA’s approval and as cases continue to rise across the country.

According to the CDC, the new vaccines – specifically designed to include a monovalent element intended to protect against the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 – will be available by the end of this week at most locations offering vaccines.

In a student health briefing with Annenberg Media Tuesday, before the CDC issued the guidelines for the new vaccines, Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman said she believed the CDC’s recommendations would “likely be a tailored recommendation again based on people’s age and underlying health status.”

As of Tuesday’s announcement, the vaccine is recommended by the CDC for everyone ages 6 months and older, while the amount of doses depends on the individual’s vaccination record.

Van Orman added that there is “more to come” regarding recommendations to the campus community following the new vaccines’ approval, with the goal of providing more information based on the CDC’s guidelines by next week.

The university’s current COVID-19 Vaccination Program Policy, last revised in May, “strongly recommends that all students, faculty, and staff become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and thereafter receive booster doses when recommended.”

For Caesar Guardado, a business administration major, promoting the new vaccines is crucial for a healthy campus.

“I think everyone should take it but again it’s your choice. I think it’d be really good if USC promoted the vaccine and offered incentives to do it,” Guardado said. “For my community college, if you got the vaccine by a certain date they offered like a gift card or something. So it’s different ways to incentivize people.”

Brianna Garcia, a senior psychology major, said she’s taking the vaccines as a measure to keep both herself and her family free of COVID-19.

“I have younger siblings and I live with my grandma so I feel like it’s necessary for me to get the booster,” Garcia said.

But some students said they are worried about the safety of the vaccines.

“I’m open to the idea but I would do my own independent research before deciding to [take the vaccine],” said Mya Kamara, a freshman neuroscience major.

Despite following vaccine recommendations, Garcia also spoke on the uncertainty in long-term side effects of the vaccine.

“I think the only concerns are obviously like the long term effects,” Garcia said. “We just got the vaccine probably like two years ago so we really don’t know the long-term effects, like in 50 years how it’s going to affect us.”

USC’s vaccine efforts have persisted. Last year, USC pharmacies hosted Vaxchella, which provided COVID-19 bivalent boosters and flu vaccines to all UPC students, staff and faculty in the Engemann Building’s walk-in clinic.

While the University is still waiting for the new COVID-19 booster stock this year, Dr. Van Orman recommends that students get flu shots in the meantime.

“It is a good opportunity, though, to remind people of the vaccines we recommend for everybody, including their seasonal influenza vaccine,” Van Orman said. She added that the flu “often hits right during finals week, so getting your flu shot could really prevent people from either getting the flu, or if they do get it, to make sure they have a milder course.”

Students can schedule flu shots through MySHR and are available at most USC pharmacies and pop-up vaccination sites on campus.

As some individuals slowly begin to overlook the symptoms of COVID-19, the CDC reminds us that healthy adults and children can still fall extremely ill to the ongoing disease and the benefits of responding vaccines outweigh the risks. Find out more in CDC’s announcement.