Association Between 3 Doses of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine and Symptomatic Infection Caused by the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron and Delta Variants

JAMA. Published online January 21, 2022. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.0470
Key PointsQuestion  What is the association between 3 doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection with the Omicron and Delta variants?

Findings  In this test-negative case-control analysis that included 70 155 tests from symptomatic adults, the likelihood of vaccination with 3 mRNA vaccine doses (vs unvaccinated) was significantly lower among both Omicron (odds ratio, 0.33) and Delta (odds ratio, 0.065) cases than SARS-CoV-2–negative controls; a similar pattern was observed with 3 vaccine doses vs 2 doses (Omicron odds ratio, 0.34; Delta odds ratio, 0.16).

Meaning  These findings suggest that vaccination with 3 doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, compared with being unvaccinated and with receipt of 2 doses, was associated with protection against both the Omicron and Delta variants, although higher odds ratios for the association with Omicron infection suggest less protection for Omicron than for Delta.

Abstract

Importance  Assessing COVID-19 vaccine performance against the rapidly spreading SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant is critical to inform public health guidance.

Objective  To estimate the association between receipt of 3 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 or Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine and symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, stratified by variant (Omicron and Delta).

Design, Setting, and Participants  A test-negative case-control analysis among adults 18 years or older with COVID-like illness tested December 10, 2021, through January 1, 2022, by a national pharmacy-based testing program (4666 COVID-19 testing sites across 49 US states).

Exposures  Three doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (third dose ≥14 days before test and ≥6 months after second dose) vs unvaccinated and vs 2 doses 6 months or more before test (ie, eligible for a booster dose).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Association between symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection (stratified by Omicron or Delta variants defined using S-gene target failure) and vaccination (3 doses vs unvaccinated and 3 doses vs 2 doses). Associations were measured with multivariable multinomial regression. Among cases, a secondary outcome was median cycle threshold values (inversely proportional to the amount of target nucleic acid present) for 3 viral genes, stratified by variant and vaccination status.

Results  Overall, 23 391 cases (13 098 Omicron; 10 293 Delta) and 46 764 controls were included (mean age, 40.3 [SD, 15.6] years; 42 050 [60.1%] women). Prior receipt of 3 mRNA vaccine doses was reported for 18.6% (n = 2441) of Omicron cases, 6.6% (n = 679) of Delta cases, and 39.7% (n = 18 587) of controls; prior receipt of 2 mRNA vaccine doses was reported for 55.3% (n = 7245), 44.4% (n = 4570), and 41.6% (n = 19 456), respectively; and being unvaccinated was reported for 26.0% (n = 3412), 49.0% (n = 5044), and 18.6% (n = 8721), respectively. The adjusted odds ratio for 3 doses vs unvaccinated was 0.33 (95% CI, 0.31-0.35) for Omicron and 0.065 (95% CI, 0.059-0.071) for Delta; for 3 vaccine doses vs 2 doses the adjusted odds ratio was 0.34 (95% CI, 0.32-0.36) for Omicron and 0.16 (95% CI, 0.14-0.17) for Delta. Median cycle threshold values were significantly higher in cases with 3 doses vs 2 doses for both Omicron and Delta (Omicron N gene: 19.35 vs 18.52; Omicron ORF1ab gene: 19.25 vs 18.40; Delta N gene: 19.07 vs 17.52; Delta ORF1ab gene: 18.70 vs 17.28; Delta S gene: 23.62 vs 20.24).

Conclusions and Relevance  Among individuals seeking testing for COVID-like illness in the US in December 2021, receipt of 3 doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (compared with unvaccinated and with receipt of 2 doses) was less likely among cases with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection compared with test-negative controls. These findings suggest that receipt of 3 doses of mRNA vaccine, relative to being unvaccinated and to receipt of 2 doses, was associated with protection against both the Omicron and Delta variants, although the higher odds ratios for Omicron suggest less protection for Omicron than for Delta.

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