Efficacy of mRNA-1273 and Novavax ancestral or BA.1 spike booster vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 BA.5 infection in nonhuman primates

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Science Immunology


Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variants escape vaccine-induced neutralizing antibodies and cause nearly all current COVID-19 cases. Here, we compared the efficacy of three booster vaccines against Omicron BA.5 challenge in rhesus macaques: mRNA-1273, the Novavax ancestral spike protein vaccine (NVX-CoV2373), or Omicron BA.1 spike protein version (NVX-CoV2515). All three booster vaccines induced a strong BA.1 cross-reactive binding antibody and changed immunoglobulin G (Ig) dominance from IgG1 to IgG4 in the serum. All three booster vaccines also induced strong and comparable neutralizing antibody responses against multiple variants of concern, including BA.5 and BQ.1.1, along with long-lived plasma cells in the bone marrow. The ratio of BA.1 to WA-1 spike-specific antibody-secreting cells in the blood was higher in NVX-CoV2515 animals compared with NVX-CoV2373 animals, suggesting a better recall of BA.1-specific memory B cells by the BA.1 spike-specific vaccine compared with the ancestral spike-specific vaccine. Further, all three booster vaccines induced low levels of spike-specific CD4 but not CD8 T cell responses in the blood. After challenge with SARS-CoV-2 BA.5 variant, all three vaccines showed strong protection in the lungs and controlled virus replication in the nasopharynx. In addition, both Novavax vaccines blunted viral replication in nasopharynx at day 2. The protection against SARS-CoV-2 BA.5 infection in the upper respiratory airways correlated with binding, neutralizing, and ADNP activities of the serum antibody. These data have important implications for COVID-19 vaccine development, because vaccines that lower nasopharyngeal virus may help to reduce transmission.

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