The development of vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection has mainly relied on the induction of neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) to the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, but there is growing evidence that T cell immune response can contribute to protection as well. In this study, an anti-receptor binding domain (RBD) antibody assay and an INFγ-release assay (IGRA) were used to detect humoral and cellular responses to the Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine in three separate cohorts of COVID-19-naïve patients: 108 healthcare workers (HCWs), 15 elderly people, and 5 autoimmune patients treated with immunosuppressive agents. After the second dose of vaccine, the mean values of anti-RBD antibodies (Abs) and INFγ were 123.33 U/mL (range 27.55-464) and 1513 mIU/mL (range 145-2500) in HCWs and 210.7 U/mL (range 3-500) and 1167 mIU/mL (range 83-2500) in elderly people. No correlations between age and immune status were observed. On the contrary, a weak but significant positive correlation was found between INFγ and anti-RBD Abs values (rho = 0.354, p = 0.003). As to the autoimmune cohort, anti-RBD Abs were not detected in the two patients with absent peripheral CD19B cells, despite high INFγ levels being observed in all 5 patients after vaccination. Even though the clinical relevance of T cell response has not yet been established as a correlate of vaccine-induced protection, IGRA testing has showed optimal sensitivity and specificity to define vaccine responders, even in patients lacking a cognate antibody response to the vaccine.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.