Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 induced by infection or vaccination

J Intern Med. 2022 Jan;291(1):32-50. doi: 10.1111/joim.13372. Epub 2021 Aug 5.


Adaptive immune responses play critical roles in viral clearance and protection against re-infection, and SARS-CoV-2 is no exception. What is exceptional is the rapid characterization of the immune response to the virus performed by researchers during the first 20 months of the pandemic. This has given us a more detailed understanding of SARS-CoV-2 compared to many viruses that have been with us for a long time. Furthermore, effective COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time, and their rollout worldwide is already making a significant difference, although major challenges remain in terms of equal access. The pandemic has engaged scientists and the public alike, and terms such as seroprevalence, neutralizing antibodies, antibody escape and vaccine certificates have become familiar to a broad community. Here, we review key findings concerning B cell and antibody (Ab) responses to SARS-CoV-2, focusing on non-severe cases and anti-spike (S) Ab responses in particular, the latter being central to protective immunity induced by infection or vaccination. The emergence of viral variants that have acquired mutations in S acutely highlights the need for continued characterization of both emerging variants and Ab responses against these during the evolving pathogen-immune system arms race.

Keywords: B cells; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; antibody responses; population immunity; vaccines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 Serological Testing
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunity* / immunology
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Vaccination


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • COVID-19 Vaccines