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Longitudinal evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 T cell immunity over 2 years following vaccination and infection.

BACKGROUND: Within a year of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, vaccines inducing a robust humoral and cellular immune response were implemented worldwide. However, emergence of novel variants and waning vaccine induced immunity led to implementation of additional vaccine boosters.

METHODS: This prospective study evaluated the temporal profile of cellular and serological responses in a cohort of 639 SARS-CoV-2 vaccinated participants, of whom a large proportion experienced a SARS-CoV-2 infection. All participants were infection naïve at the time of their first vaccine dose. Proportions of SARS-CoV-2 Spike-specific T cells were determined after each vaccine dose using the Activation Induced Markers (AIM) assay, while levels of circulating SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were determined by the Meso Scale serology assay.

RESULTS: We found a significant increase in SARS-CoV-2 Spike-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses following the third dose of a SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine as well as enhanced CD8+ T cell responses after the fourth dose. Further, increased age was associated with a poorer response. Finally, we observed that SARS-CoV-2 infection boosts both the cellular and humoral immune response, relative to vaccine-induced immunity alone.

CONCLUSION: Our findings highlight the boosting effect on T cell immunity of repeated vaccine administration. The combination of multiple vaccine doses and SARS-CoV-2 infections maintains population T cell immunity although with reduced levels in the elderly.

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