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Immunogenicity and safety of the homogenous booster shot of a recombinant fusion protein vaccine (V-01) against COVID-19 in healthy adult participants primed with a two-dose regimen

By Yuan Li, Xin Fang, Rongjuan Pei, Renfeng Fan, Shaomin Chen, Peiyu Zeng, Zhiqiang Ou, Jinglong Deng, Jian Zhou, Zehui Sun, Lishi Liu, Hua Peng, Xujia Chen, Zhipeng Su, Xi Chen, Jianfeng He, Wuxiang Guan, Zhongyu Hu, Yang-Xin Fu, Jikai Zhang

Posted 08 Nov 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.04.21265780

Background: Rising concerns over waning immunity and reduction in neutralizing activity against variants of concern (VOCs) have contributed to deploying booster doses by different strategies to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary findings from Phase I and II have shown that V-01, a recombinant fusion protein vaccine against COVID-19, exhibited favorable safety and immunogenicity profiles in 1060 adult participants of both younger and senior age. Herein, we aimed to assess the immunogenicity and safety for a booster dose in participants previously primed with a two-dose 10mcg V-01 regimen (day 0, 21) from phase I trial, providing reassuring data for necessity and feasibility of a homogenous booster dose. Methods: We conducted a single-arm, open-label trial at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Gaozhou, China). Forty-three eligible participants who were previously primed 4-5 months earlier with two-dose 10mcg V-01 regimen from phase I trial received booster vaccination. We primarily assessed the immunogenicity post-booster vaccination, measured by RBD-binding antibodies using ELISA and neutralizing activity against wild-type SARS-CoV-2 and emerging variants of concern (VOCs) using neutralization assays. We secondarily assessed the safety and reactogenicity of the booster vaccination. Results: The third dose of V-01 exhibited significant boosting effects of humoral immune response in participants primed with two-dose 10g V-01 regimen regarding both wild-type SARS-CoV-2 and VOCs. We observed a 60.4-folds increase in neutralizing titres against SARS-CoV-2 of younger adults, with GMTs of 17 (95%CI: 12-23) prior to booster vaccination in comparison to 1017 (95%CI: 732-1413) at day 14 post booster vaccination; and a 53.6-folds increase in that of older adults, with GMTs of 14 (95%CI: 9-20) before booster vaccination in comparison to 729(95%CI: 397-1339) at day 14 post-booster vaccination. The neutralizing titres against SARS-CoV-2 Delta strain also demonstrated a sharp increase from the day of pre booster vaccination to day 14 post booster vaccination, with GMTs of 11 (95%CI:8-15) versus 383 (95%CI:277-531) in younger adults (35.4-folds increase), and 6.5(95%CI: 5-8) versus 300(95%CI:142-631) in older adults (46.0-folds increase), respectively. We also observed a considerable and consistent increase of pseudovirus neutralizing titres against emerging VOCs from day 28 post second vaccination to day 14 post booster vaccination, with GMTs of 206 (95%CI:163-259) versus 607 (95%CI: 478-771) for Alpha strain, 54 (95%CI:38-77) versus 329 (95%CI: 255-425) for Beta strain, 219 (95%CI:157-306) versus 647 (95%CI: 484-865) for Delta strain. Our preliminary findings indicate a homogenous booster dose of V-01 was safe and well-tolerated, with overall adverse reactions being absent or mild-to-moderate in severity, and no grade 3 or worse AEs were related to booster vaccination. Conclusions: A homogenous booster immunization in participants receiving a primary series of two-dose V-01 elicited a substantial humoral immune response against wild-type SARS-CoV-2 and emerging VOCs, along with a favorable safety and reactogenicity profile. Our study provided promising data for a homogenous prime-boost strategy using recombinant protein vaccine to tackle the ongoing pandemic, potentially providing broad protection against emerging VOCs and overcoming waning immunity.

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