First-dose mRNA vaccination is sufficient to reactivate immunological memory to SARS-CoV-2 in recovered COVID-19 subjects

J Clin Invest. 2021 May 3;149150. doi: 10.1172/JCI149150. Online ahead of print.


The characterization of the adaptive immune response to COVID-19 vaccination in individuals who recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection may define current and future clinical practice. To determine the effect of two doses BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccination schedule in individuals who recovered from COVID-19 (COVID-19 recovered) compared to naïve subjects, we evaluated SARS-CoV-2 Spike-specific T and B cell responses, as well as specific IgA, IgG, IgM and neutralizing antibodies titers in 22 individuals who received BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, 11 of which had a previous history of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Evaluations were performed before vaccination and then weekly until 7 days post second injection. Data obtained clearly showed that one vaccine dose is sufficient to increase both cellular and humoral immune response in COVID-19 recovered subjects without any additional improvement after the second dose. On the contrary, the second dose is proved mandatory in naïve ones to further enhance the immune response. These findings were further confirmed at serological level in a larger cohort of naïve (68) and COVID-19 recovered (29) subjects, tested up to 50 days post vaccination. These results question whether a second vaccine injection in COVID-19 recovered subjects is required and indicate that millions of vaccine doses may be redirected to naïve individuals, thus shortening the time to reach herd immunity.

Keywords: Adaptive immunity; COVID-19; Immunoglobulins; Immunology; T cells.