Contributing to research themes:
T cells specific for SARS-CoV-2 are thought to protect against infection and development of COVID-19, but direct evidence for this is lacking. Here, we associated whole-blood-based measurement of SARS-CoV-2-specific interferon-γ-positive T cell responses with positive COVID-19 diagnostic (PCR and/or lateral flow) test results up to 6 months post-blood sampling. Amongst 148 participants donating venous blood samples, SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell response magnitude is significantly greater in those who remain protected versus those who become infected (P < 0.0001); relatively low magnitude T cell response results in a 43.2% risk of infection, whereas high magnitude reduces this risk to 5.4%. These findings are recapitulated in a further 299 participants testing a scalable capillary blood-based assay that could facilitate the acquisition of population-scale T cell immunity data (14.9% and 4.4%, respectively). Hence, measurement of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells can prognosticate infection risk and should be assessed when monitoring individual and population immunity status.