Benchmarks for protective immunity from infection or severe disease after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination are still being defined. Here, we characterized virus neutralizing and ELISA antibody levels, cellular immune responses, and viral variants in 4 separate groups: Healthy controls (HCs) weeks (early) or months (late) following vaccination in comparison with symptomatic patients with SARS-CoV-2 after partial or full mRNA vaccination. During the period of the study, most symptomatic breakthrough infections were caused by the SARS-CoV-2 Alpha variant. Neutralizing antibody levels in the HCs were sustained over time against the vaccine parent virus but decreased against the Alpha variant, whereas IgG titers and T cell responses against the parent virus and Alpha variant declined over time. Both partially and fully vaccinated patients with symptomatic infections had lower virus neutralizing antibody levels against the parent virus than the HCs, similar IgG antibody titers, and similar virus-specific T cell responses measured by IFN-γ. Compared with HCs, neutralization activity against the Alpha variant was lower in the partially vaccinated infected patients and tended to be lower in the fully vaccinated infected patients. In this cohort of breakthrough infections, parent virus neutralization was the superior predictor of breakthrough infections with the Alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2.
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