mRNA vaccines are likely to become widely used for the prevention of infectious diseases in the future. Nevertheless, a notable gap exists in mechanistic data, particularly concerning the potential effects of sequential mRNA immunization or preexisting immunity on the early innate immune response triggered by vaccination. In this study, healthy adults, with or without documented prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, were vaccinated with the BNT162b2/Comirnaty mRNA vaccine. Prior infection conferred significantly stronger induction of proinflammatory and type I IFN–related gene signatures, serum cytokines, and monocyte expansion after the prime vaccination. The response to the second vaccination further increased the magnitude of the early innate response in both study groups. The third vaccination did not further increase vaccine-induced inflammation. In vitro stimulation of PBMCs with TLR ligands showed no difference in cytokine responses between groups, or before or after prime vaccination, indicating absence of a trained immunity effect. We observed that levels of preexisting antigen-specific CD4 T cells, antibody, and memory B cells correlated with elements of the early innate response to the first vaccination. Our data thereby indicate that preexisting memory formed by infection may augment the innate immune activation induced by mRNA vaccines.


Fredrika Hellgren, Anja Rosdahl, Rodrigo Arcoverde Cerveira, Klara Lenart, Sebastian Ols, Yong-Dae Gwon, Seta Kurt, Anna Maria Delis, Gustav Joas, Magnus Evander, Johan Normark, Clas Ahlm, Mattias N.E. Forsell, Sara Cajander, Karin Loré


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