Objectives: SARS-CoV-2-induced COVID-19 has led to exponentially rising mortality, particularly in immunosuppressed patients, who inadequately respond to conventional COVID-19 vaccination.
Methods: In this blinded randomised clinical trial, we compare the efficacy and safety of an additional booster vaccination with a vector versus mRNA vaccine in non-seroconverted patients. We assigned 60 patients under rituximab treatment, who did not seroconvert after their primary mRNA vaccination with either BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) or mRNA-1273 (Moderna), to receive a third dose, either using the same mRNA or the vector vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (Oxford-AstraZeneca). Patients were stratified according to the presence of peripheral B cells. The primary efficacy endpoint was the difference in the SARS-CoV-2 antibody seroconversion rate between vector (heterologous) and mRNA (homologous) vaccinated patients by week 4. Key secondary endpoints included the overall seroconversion and cellular immune response; safety was assessed at week 1 and week 4.
Results: Seroconversion rates at week 4 were comparable between vector (6/27 patients, 22%) and mRNA (9/28, 32%) vaccines (p=0.6). Overall, 27% of patients seroconverted; specific T cell responses were observed in 20/20 (100%) vector versus 13/16 (81%) mRNA vaccinated patients. Newly induced humoral and/or cellular responses occurred in 9/11 (82%) patients. 3/37 (8%) of patients without and 12/18 (67%) of the patients with detectable peripheral B cells seroconverted. No serious adverse events, related to immunisation, were observed.
Conclusions: This enhanced humoral and/or cellular immune response supports an additional booster vaccination in non-seroconverted patients irrespective of a heterologous or homologous vaccination regimen.
Keywords: Covid-19; rituximab; vaccination.
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