Comparing SARS-CoV-2 natural immunity to vaccine-induced immunity: reinfections versus breakthrough infections

Abstract

Background Reports of waning vaccine-induced immunity against COVID-19 have begun to surface. With that, the comparable long-term protection conferred by previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 remains unclear.

Methods We conducted a retrospective observational study comparing three groups: (1)SARS-CoV-2-naïve individuals who received a two-dose regimen of the BioNTech/Pfizer mRNA BNT162b2 vaccine, (2)previously infected individuals who have not been vaccinated, and (3)previously infected and single dose vaccinated individuals. Three multivariate logistic regression models were applied. In all models we evaluated four outcomes: SARS-CoV-2 infection, symptomatic disease, COVID-19-related hospitalization and death. The follow-up period of June 1 to August 14, 2021, when the Delta variant was dominant in Israel.

Results SARS-CoV-2-naïve vaccinees had a 13.06-fold (95% CI, 8.08 to 21.11) increased risk for breakthrough infection with the Delta variant compared to those previously infected, when the first event (infection or vaccination) occurred during January and February of 2021. The increased risk was significant (P<0.001) for symptomatic disease as well. When allowing the infection to occur at any time before vaccination (from March 2020 to February 2021), evidence of waning natural immunity was demonstrated, though SARS-CoV-2 naïve vaccinees had a 5.96-fold (95% CI, 4.85 to 7.33) increased risk for breakthrough infection and a 7.13-fold (95% CI, 5.51 to 9.21) increased risk for symptomatic disease. SARS-CoV-2-naïve vaccinees were also at a greater risk for COVID-19-related-hospitalizations compared to those that were previously infected.

Conclusions This study demonstrated that natural immunity confers longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 two-dose vaccine-induced immunity. Individuals who were both previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and given a single dose of the vaccine gained additional protection against the Delta variant.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

There was no external funding for the project.

Author Declarations

I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.

Yes

The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

This study was approved by the MHS (Maccabi Healthcare Services) Institutional Review Board (IRB). Due to the retrospective design of the study, informed consent was waived by the IRB, and all identifying details of the participants were removed before computational analysis.

All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.

Yes

I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as ClinicalTrials.gov. I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).

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Via https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415v1