Cellular and humoral immune response to the fourth Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in individuals aged 60 years and older

Esther Saiag, Yifat Alcalay, Or Marudi, Avi Orr-Urtreger, David Hagin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the emergence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome 2 (SARS-CoV-2) B.1.1.529/BA.1 (Omicron) variant in early 2022, Israel began vaccinating individuals 6o years of age or older with a fourth BNT162b2 vaccine. While the decision was based on little experimental data, longer follow-up showed clinical effectiveness of the fourth dose with reduction in the number of severely affected individuals. However, the immune response to fourth vaccine dose in this age group was not yet characterized, and little is known about the immunogenicity of repeated vaccine dosing in this age group. We therefore aimed to evaluate the humoral and cellular immune response pre- and 3-week post- the fourth vaccine dose in patients age 60 years or older. For this purpose, blood samples were collected from donors age 60 years or older, all received their 3rd vaccine dose 5 months prior. Serum samples were evaluated for the presence of anti-Spike protein (anti-S) antibodies (N = 133), and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were evaluated by flow cytometry for their ability to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 wild type Spike-glycoprotein peptide mix, Membrane-glycoprotein (M) peptide mix and to the mutated Spike-regions of the Omicron variant (N = 34). Three weeks after the fourth vaccine dose, 24 out of 34 donors (70.5%) showed significant increase in the number of cells responding to the wild type S-peptide mix. Of note, out of 34 donors, 11 donors (32.3%) had pre-boost anti-M T-cell response, none of which had history of confirmed COVID-19, suggesting possible asymptomatic exposure. Interestingly, in M non-responding individuals, no statistically significant increase in the cellular response was observed following stimulation with omicron S-mutated regions. While there are limited data regarding the longevity of the observed response, our results are in accordance with the described clinical efficacy, provide mechanistic evidence to support it and argue against vaccine-induced or age-related immunosenescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)914-921
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 23 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Age-related immunosenescence
  • BNT162b2 age-related immunosenescence
  • COVID-19
  • Fourth-dose
  • Second-booster


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