The cellular immune responses elicited by an investigational vaccine against an emergent variant of influenza (H3N2v) are not fully understood. Twenty-five subjects, enrolled in an investigational influenza A/H3N2v vaccine study, who received two doses of vaccine 21 days apart, were included in a sub-study of cellular immune responses. H3N2v-specific plasmablasts were determined by ELISpot 8 days after each vaccine dose and H3N2v specific CD4+ T cells were quantified by intracellular cytokine and CD154 (CD40 ligand) staining before vaccination, 8 and 21 days after each vaccine dose. Results: 95% (19/20) and 96% (24/25) subjects had pre-existing H3N2v specific memory B, and T cell responses, respectively. Plasmablast responses at Day 8 after the first vaccine administration were detected against contemporary H3N2 strains and correlated with hemagglutination inhibition HAI (IgG: p = 0.018; IgA: p < 0.001) and Neut (IgG: p = 0.038; IgA: p = 0.021) titers and with memory B cell frequency at baseline (IgA: r = 0.76, p < 0.001; IgG: r = 0.74, p = 0.0001). The CD4+ T cells at Days 8 and 21 expanded after prime vaccination and this expansion correlated strongly with early post-vaccination HAI and Neut titers (p ≤ 0.002). In an adult population, the rapid serological response observed after initial H3N2v vaccination correlates with post-vaccination plasmablasts and CD4+ T cell responses.
Keywords: H3N2v; T cell responses; antibody secreting cells; influenza; vaccine.