SARS-CoV-2 vaccines vary significantly in immunogenicity in individuals without prior infection. If confirmed in effectiveness studies, public health policy may need to be tailored to each vaccine, or even individual responses.
Background: Understanding variation in immunogenicity may help rationalize use of existing SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. Methods: We compared immune responses in ambulatory adults vaccinated with mRNA-1273 , BNT-162b2 or Ad26.COV2.S in Massachusetts, USA between February and May 2021. Control groups were pre-pandemic controls (n=1220) and individuals without (n=112) or with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (n=130) sampled in mid-2020. We measured total anti-spike IgG/M/A antibodies (Roche Elecsys Anti-SARS-COV-2 S assay), anti-receptor-binding-domain (RBD) antibodies; neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus; and T-cell responses. Findings In individuals with prior infection, all vaccines were associated with higher antibody concentrations and neutralization than those in convalescent individuals, even after a single dose. In individuals without prior infection, a single dose of either mRNA vaccine yielded comparable concentrations and neutralization to convalescent unvaccinated individuals, and Ad26.COV2.S yielded lower antibody concentrations and neutralization titers. The second dose of either mRNA vaccine boosted responses. At a median of 24 days after vaccination, two of 21 (9.5%) Ad26.COV2.S recipients had a neutralization titer higher than pre-pandemic controls; repeat sampling at a median 66 days after vaccination found most (11/15 (73%) remained negative. Antibody concentrations and neutralization titers increased similarly after the first dose of either vaccine, and even further in recipients of a second dose of vaccine. T-cell responses were higher in mRNA1273 and BNT162b2 than Ad26.COV2.S recipients. Interpretation SARS-CoV-2 vaccines vary significantly in immunogenicity in individuals without prior infection. If confirmed in effectiveness studies, public health policy may need to be tailored to each vaccine, or even individual responses.