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Primary ChAdOx1 vaccination does not reactivate pre-existing, cross-reactive immunity

Henze, Larissa; Braun, Julian; Meyer-Arndt, Lil; Jürchott, Karsten; Schlotz, Maike; Michel, Janine; Grossegesse, Marica; Mangold, Maike; Dingeldey, Manuela; Kruse, Beate; Holenya, Pavlo; Mages, Norbert; Reimer, Ulf; Eckey, Maren; Schnatbaum, Karsten; Wenschuh, Holger; Timmermann, Bernd; Klein, Florian; Nitsche, Andreas; Giesecke-Thiel, Claudia; Loyal, Lucie; Thiel, Andreas

FG Medizinische Biotechnologie

Currently available COVID-19 vaccines include inactivated virus, live attenuated virus, mRNA-based, viral vectored and adjuvanted protein-subunit-based vaccines. All of them contain the spike glycoprotein as the main immunogen and result in reduced disease severity upon SARS-CoV-2 infection. While we and others have shown that mRNA-based vaccination reactivates pre-existing, cross-reactive immunity, the effect of vector vaccines in this regard is unknown. Here, we studied cellular and humoral responses in heterologous adenovirus-vector-based ChAdOx1 nCOV-19 (AZ; Vaxzeria, AstraZeneca) and mRNA-based BNT162b2 (BNT; Comirnaty, BioNTech/Pfizer) vaccination and compared it to a homologous BNT vaccination regimen. AZ primary vaccination did not lead to measurable reactivation of cross-reactive cellular and humoral immunity compared to BNT primary vaccination. Moreover, humoral immunity induced by primary vaccination with AZ displayed differences in linear spike peptide epitope coverage and a lack of anti-S2 IgG antibodies. Contrary to primary AZ vaccination, secondary vaccination with BNT reactivated pre-existing, cross-reactive immunity, comparable to homologous primary and secondary mRNA vaccination. While induced anti-S1 IgG antibody titers were higher after heterologous vaccination, induced CD4+ T cell responses were highest in homologous vaccinated. However, the overall TCR repertoire breadth was comparable between heterologous AZ-BNT-vaccinated and homologous BNT-BNT-vaccinated individuals, matching TCR repertoire breadths after SARS-CoV-2 infection, too. The reasons why AZ and BNT primary vaccination elicits different immune response patterns to essentially the same antigen, and the associated benefits and risks, need further investigation to inform vaccine and vaccination schedule development.