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


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.



Lee N, Nguyen L, Austin PC, Brown KA, Grewal R, Buchan SA, Nasreen S, Gubbay J, Schwartz KL, Tadrous M, Wilson K, Wilson SE, Kwong JC. Clin Infect Dis. 2024; Nov 24 {Epub ahead of print].

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