Vaccine effectiveness studies have not differentiated the effect of the delta (B.1.617.2) variant and potential waning immunity in observed reductions in effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infections. We aimed to evaluate overall and variant-specific effectiveness of BNT162b2 (tozinameran, Pfizer–BioNTech) against SARS-CoV-2 infections and COVID-19-related hospital admissions by time since vaccination among members of a large US health-care system.
In this retrospective cohort study, we analysed electronic health records of individuals (≥12 years) who were members of the health-care organisation Kaiser Permanente Southern California (CA, USA), to assess BNT162b2 vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infections and COVID-19-related hospital admissions for up to 6 months. Participants were required to have 1 year or more previous membership of the organisation. Outcomes comprised SARS-CoV-2 PCR-positive tests and COVID-19-related hospital admissions. Effectiveness calculations were based on hazard ratios from adjusted Cox models. This study was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04848584.
Between Dec 14, 2020, and Aug 8, 2021, of 4 920 549 individuals assessed for eligibility, we included 3 436 957 (median age 45 years [IQR 29–61]; 1 799 395 [52·4%] female and 1 637 394 [47·6%] male). For fully vaccinated individuals, effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infections was 73% (95% CI 72–74) and against COVID-19-related hospital admissions was 90% (89–92). Effectiveness against infections declined from 88% (95% CI 86–89) during the first month after full vaccination to 47% (43–51) after 5 months. Among sequenced infections, vaccine effectiveness against infections of the delta variant was high during the first month after full vaccination (93% [95% CI 85–97]) but declined to 53% [39–65] after 4 months. Effectiveness against other (non-delta) variants the first month after full vaccination was also high at 97% (95% CI 95–99), but waned to 67% (45–80) at 4–5 months. Vaccine effectiveness against hospital admissions for infections with the delta variant for all ages was high overall (93% [95% CI 84–96]) up to 6 months.
Our results provide support for high effectiveness of BNT162b2 against hospital admissions up until around 6 months after being fully vaccinated, even in the face of widespread dissemination of the delta variant. Reduction in vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infections over time is probably primarily due to waning immunity with time rather than the delta variant escaping vaccine protection.