Accelerated waning of the humoral response to COVID-19 vaccines in obesity

Agatha A. van der Klaauw, Emily C. Horner, Pehuén Pereyra-Gerber, Utkarsh Agrawal, William S. Foster, Sarah Spencer, Bensi Vergese, Miriam Smith, Elana Henning, Isobel D. Ramsay, Jack A. Smith, Stephane M. Guillaume, Hayley J. Sharpe, Iain M. Hay, Sam Thompson, Silvia Innocentin, Lucy H. Booth, Chris Robertson, Colin McCowan, Steven KerrThomas E. Mulroney, Martin J. O’Reilly, Thevinya P. Gurugama, Lihinya P. Gurugama, Maria A. Rust, Alex Ferreira, Soraya Ebrahimi, Lourdes Ceron-Gutierrez, Jacopo Scotucci, Barbara Kronsteiner, Susanna J. Dunachie, Paul Klenerman, PITCH Consortium, Adrian J. Park, Francesco Rubino, Abigail A. Lamikanra, Hannah Stark, Nathalie Kingston, Lise Estcourt, Heli Harvala, David J. Roberts, Rainer Doffinger, Michelle A. Linterman, Nicholas J. Matheson, Aziz Sheikh*, I. Sadaf Farooqi*, James E. D. Thaventhiran*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Obesity is associated with an increased risk of severe Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection and mortality. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of serious COVID-19 outcomes; however, their effectiveness in people with obesity is incompletely understood. We studied the relationship among body mass index (BMI), hospitalization and mortality due to COVID-19 among 3.6 million people in Scotland using the Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of COVID-19 (EAVE II) surveillance platform. We found that vaccinated individuals with severe obesity (BMI > 40 kg/m2) were 76% more likely to experience hospitalization or death from COVID-19 (adjusted rate ratio of 1.76 (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.60–1.94). We also conducted a prospective longitudinal study of a cohort of 28 individuals with severe obesity compared to 41 control individuals with normal BMI (BMI 18.5–24.9 kg/m2). We found that 55% of individuals with severe obesity had unquantifiable titers of neutralizing antibody against authentic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus compared to 12% of individuals with normal BMI (P = 0.0003) 6 months after their second vaccine dose. Furthermore, we observed that, for individuals with severe obesity, at any given anti-spike and anti-receptor-binding domain (RBD) antibody level, neutralizing capacity was lower than that of individuals with a normal BMI. Neutralizing capacity was restored by a third dose of vaccine but again declined more rapidly in people with severe obesity. We demonstrate that waning of COVID-19 vaccine-induced humoral immunity is accelerated in individuals with severe obesity. As obesity is associated with increased hospitalization and mortality from breakthrough infections, our findings have implications for vaccine prioritization policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1146-1154
Number of pages9
JournalNature Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date11 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2023


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