Immune correlates of protection can be used as surrogate endpoints for vaccine efficacy. The nonhuman primate (NHP) model of SARS-CoV-2 infection replicates key features of human infection and may be used to define immune correlates of protection following vaccination. Here, NHP received either no vaccine or doses ranging from 0.3 - 100 μg of mRNA-1273, a mRNA vaccine encoding the prefusion-stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike (S-2P) protein encapsulated in a lipid nanoparticle. mRNA-1273 vaccination elicited robust circulating and mucosal antibody responses in a dose-dependent manner. Viral replication was significantly reduced in bronchoalveolar lavages and nasal swabs following SARS-CoV-2 challenge in vaccinated animals and was most strongly correlated with levels of anti-S antibody binding and neutralizing activity. Consistent with antibodies being a correlate of protection, passive transfer of vaccine-induced IgG to naïve hamsters was sufficient to mediate protection. Taken together, these data show that mRNA-1273 vaccine-induced humoral immune responses are a mechanistic correlate of protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in NHP.
One-sentence summary: mRNA-1273 vaccine-induced antibody responses are a mechanistic correlate of protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in NHP.