Protection conferred by COVID-19 vaccination, prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, or hybrid immunity against Omicron-associated severe outcomes among community-dwelling adults

Clin Infect Dis. 2023 Nov 24:ciad716. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciad716. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: We assessed protection from COVID-19 vaccines and/or prior SARS-CoV-2 infection against Omicron-associated severe outcomes during successive sublineage-predominant periods.

Methods: We used a test-negative design to estimate protection by vaccines and/or prior infection against hospitalization/death among community-dwelling, PCR-tested adults aged ≥50 years in Ontario, Canada between January 2, 2022 and June 30, 2023. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate the relative change in the odds of hospitalization/death with each vaccine dose (2-5) and/or prior PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (compared with unvaccinated, uninfected subjects) up to 15 months since the last vaccination or infection.

Results: We included 18,526 cases with Omicron-associated severe outcomes and 90,778 test-negative controls. Vaccine protection was high during BA.1/BA.2 predominance, but was generally <50% during periods of BA.4/BA.5 and BQ/XBB predominance without boosters. A third/fourth dose transiently increased protection during BA.4/BA.5 predominance (third-dose, 6-month: 68%, 95%CI 63%-72%; fourth-dose, 6-month: 80%, 95%CI 77%-83%), but was lower and waned quickly during BQ/XBB predominance (third-dose, 6-month: 59%, 95%CI 48%-67%; 12-month: 49%, 95%CI 41%-56%; fourth-dose, 6-month: 62%, 95%CI 56%-68%, 12-months: 51%, 95%CI 41%-56%). Hybrid immunity conferred nearly 90% protection throughout BA.1/BA.2 and BA.4/BA.5 predominance, but was reduced during BQ/XBB predominance (third-dose, 6-month: 60%, 95%CI 36%-75%; fourth-dose, 6-month: 63%, 95%CI 42%-76%). Protection was restored with a fifth dose (bivalent; 6-month: 91%, 95%CI 79%-96%). Prior infection alone did not confer lasting protection.

Conclusion: Protection from COVID-19 vaccines and/or prior SARS-CoV-2 infections against severe outcomes is reduced when immune-evasive variants/subvariants emerge and may also wane over time. Our findings support a variant-adapted booster vaccination strategy with periodic review.

Keywords: COVID-19 vaccination; Omicron; adults; hybrid immunity; severe outcomes.