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Immunogenicity and safety of COVID-19 booster vaccination: A population-based clinical trial to identify the best vaccination strategy.

BACKGROUND: Various SARS-CoV-2 variants of concerns (VOCs) characterized by higher transmissibility and immune evasion have emerged. Despite reduced vaccine efficacy against VOCs, currently available vaccines provide protection. Population-based evidence on the humoral immune response after booster vaccination is crucial to guide future vaccination strategies and in preparation for imminent COVID-19 waves.

METHODS: This multicenter, population-based cohort study included 4697 individuals ≥18 years of age who received a booster vaccination. Antibody levels against SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) and neutralizing antibodies against wild-type (WT) virus and Omicron variants were assessed at baseline (day of booster vaccination) and after four weeks. Safety was evaluated daily within the first week using a participant-completed electronic diary. Antibody levels were compared across different vaccination strategies, taking into account individual host factors.

RESULTS: Our main model including 3838 participants revealed that individuals who received a booster with mRNA-1273 compared to BNT162b2 vaccine had a significantly higher increase (95 %CI) in anti-RBD-antibody levels (37,707 BAU/mL [34,575-40,839] vs. 27,176 BAU/mL [26,265-28,087]), and of neutralization levels against WT (1,681 [1490-1872] vs. 1141 [1004-1278] and Omicron variant (422 [369-474] vs. 329 [284-374]). Neutralizing antibody titres highly correlated with anti-RBD antibodies, with neutralizing capacity 4.4 fold higher against WT compared to Omicron. No differences in safety were found between the two booster vaccines.

CONCLUSION: Our study underlines the superiority of a booster vaccination with mRNA-1273, independent of the primary vaccination and therefore provides guidance on the vaccination strategy.

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