A booster dose enhances immunogenicity of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 in aged mice

Background: The spread of SARS-CoV-2 has caused a worldwide pandemic that has affected almost every aspect of human life. The development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine could limit the morbidity and mortality caused by infection and may enable the relaxation of social-distancing measures. Age is one of the most significant risk factors for poor health outcomes after SARS-CoV-2 infection; therefore, it is desirable that any new vaccine candidates elicit a robust immune response in older adults.

Methods: Here, we use in-depth immunophenotyping to characterize the innate and adaptive immune response induced upon intramuscular administration of the adenoviral vectored ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD-1222) COVID-19 vaccine candidate in mice.

Findings: A single vaccination generates spike-specific Th1 cells, Th1-like Foxp3+ regulatory T cells, polyfunctional spike-specific CD8+ T cells. and granzyme-B-producing CD8 effectors. Spike-specific IgG and IgM are generated from both the early extrafollicular antibody response and the T follicular helper cell-supported germinal center reaction, which is associated with the production of virus-neutralizing antibodies. A single dose of this vaccine generated a similar type of immune response in aged mice but of a reduced magnitude than in younger mice. We report that a second dose enhances the immune response to this vaccine in aged mice.

Conclusions: This study shows that ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 induces both cellular and humoral immunity in adult and aged mice and suggests a prime-boost strategy is a rational approach to enhance immunogenicity in older persons.

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