Memory T cell responses have been analyzed only in small cohorts of COVID-19 vaccines. Herein, we aimed to assess anti-SARS-CoV-2 cellular immunity in a large cohort using QuantiFERON assays, which are IFN-γ release assays (IGRAs) based on short-term whole blood culture. The study included 571 individuals receiving the viral spike (S) protein-expressing BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine. QuantiFERON assays revealed antigen-specific IFN-γ production in most individuals 8 weeks after the second dose. Simultaneous flow cytometric assays to detect T cells expressing activation-induced markers (AIMs) performed for 28 randomly selected individuals provided data correlating with the QuantiFERON data. Simultaneous IFN-γ enzyme-linked immunospot and AIM assays for another subset of 31 individuals, based on short-term peripheral blood mononuclear cell culture, also indicated a correlation between IFN-γ production and AIM positivity. These observations indicated the acquisition of T cell memory responses and supported the usability of IGRAs to assess cellular immunity. The QuantiFERON results were weakly correlated with serum IgG titers against the receptor-binding domain of the S protein and were associated with pre-vaccination infection and adverse reactions after the second dose. The present study revealed cellular immunity after COVID-19 vaccination, providing insights into the effects and adverse reactions of vaccination.
ASJC Scopus subject areas