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This research has not been peer-reviewed. It is a preliminary report that should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice or health-related behaviour, or be reported in news media as established information.
Both infection and vaccination, alone or in combination, generate antibody and T cell responses against SARS–CoV–2. However, the maintenance of such responses – and hence protection from disease – requires careful characterisation. In a large prospective study of UK healthcare workers (PITCH, within the larger SIREN study) we previously observed that prior infection impacted strongly on subsequent cellular and humoral immunity induced after long and short dosing intervals of BNT162b2 (Pfizer/BioNTech) vaccination. Here, we report longer follow up of 684 HCWs in this cohort over 6–9 months following two doses of BNT162b2 or AZ1222 (Oxford/AstraZeneca) vaccination and following a subsequent BNT162b2 booster vaccination. We make three important observations: Firstly, the dynamics of humoral and cellular responses differ; binding and neutralising antibodies declined whereas T and B cell responses were better maintained after the second vaccine dose. Secondly, vaccine boosting restored IgG levels to post second dose levels and broadened neutralising activity against variants of concern including omicron BA.1, alongside further boosting of T cell responses. Thirdly, prior infection maintained its impact driving larger T cell responses compared to never infected people, including after the third dose. In conclusion, the maintenance of T cell responses in time and against variants of concern may account for continued protection against severe disease.