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Estimated effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron or Delta symptomatic infection and severe outcomes

Buchan SA, Chung H, Brown KA, Austin PC, Fell DB, Gubbay JB, Nasreen S, Schwartz KL, Sundaram ME, Tadrous M, Wilson K, Wilson SE, Kwong JC. JAMA Netw Open. 2022; 5(9):e2232760. Epub 2022 Sep 22. DOI:

Importance — The incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, including among individuals who have received 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, increased substantially following the emergence of the Omicron variant in Ontario, Canada. Understanding the estimated effectiveness of 2 or 3 doses of COVID-19 vaccine against outcomes associated with Omicron and Delta infections may aid decision-making at the individual and population levels.

Objective — To estimate vaccine effectiveness (VE) against symptomatic infections due to the Omicron and Delta variants and severe outcomes (hospitalization or death) associated with these infections.

Design, Setting, and Participants — This test-negative case-control study used linked provincial databases for SARS-CoV-2 laboratory testing, reportable disease, COVID-19 vaccination, and health administration in Ontario, Canada. Participants were individuals aged 18 years or older who had COVID-19 symptoms or severe outcomes (hospitalization or death) and were tested for SARS-CoV-2 between December 6 and 26, 2021.

Exposures — Receipt of 2 or 3 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and time since last dose.

Main Outcomes and Measures — The main outcomes were symptomatic Omicron or Delta infection and severe outcomes (hospitalization or death) associated with infection. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate the effectiveness of 2 or 3 COVID-19 vaccine doses by time since the latest dose compared with no vaccination. Estimated VE was calculated using the formula VE = (1 – [adjusted odds ratio]) × 100%.

Results — Of 134 435 total participants, 16 087 were Omicron-positive cases (mean [SD] age, 36.0 [14.1] years; 8249 [51.3%] female), 4261 were Delta-positive cases (mean [SD] age, 44.2 [16.8] years; 2199 [51.6%] female), and 114 087 were test-negative controls (mean [SD] age, 42.0 [16.5] years; 67 884 [59.5%] female). Estimated VE against symptomatic Delta infection decreased from 89% (95% CI, 86%-92%) 7 to 59 days after a second dose to 80% (95% CI, 74%-84%) after 240 or more days but increased to 97% (95% CI, 96%-98%) 7 or more days after a third dose. Estimated VE against symptomatic Omicron infection was 36% (95% CI, 24%-45%) 7 to 59 days after a second dose and 1% (95% CI, –8% to 10%) after 180 days or longer, but 7 or more days after a third dose, it increased to 61% (95% CI, 56%-65%). Estimated VE against severe outcomes was high 7 or more days after a third dose for both Delta (99%; 95% CI, 98%-99%) and Omicron (95%; 95% CI, 87%-98%).

Conclusions and Relevance — In this study, in contrast to high estimated VE against symptomatic Delta infection and severe outcomes after 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, estimated VE was modest and short term against symptomatic Omicron infection but better maintained against severe outcomes. A third dose was associated with improved estimated VE against symptomatic infection and with high estimated VE against severe outcomes for both variants. Preventing infection due to Omicron and potential future variants may require tools beyond the currently available vaccines.

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