Systemic and mucosal IgA responses are variably induced in response to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccination and are associated with protection against subsequent infection

Although SARS-CoV-2 infects the upper respiratory tract, we know little about the amount, type, and kinetics of antibodies (Ab) generated in the oral cavity in response to COVID-19 vaccination. We collected serum and saliva samples from participants receiving two doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and measured the level of anti-SARS-CoV-2 Ab. We detected anti-Spike and anti-Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) IgG and IgA, as well as anti-Spike/RBD associated secretory component in the saliva of most participants after dose 1. Administration of a second dose of mRNA boosted the IgG but not the IgA response, with only 30% of participants remaining positive for IgA at this timepoint. At 6 months post-dose 2, these participants exhibited diminished anti-Spike/RBD IgG levels, although secretory component-associated anti-Spike Ab were more stable.

Examining two prospective cohorts we found that participants who experienced breakthrough infections with SARS-CoV-2 variants had lower levels of vaccine-induced serum anti-Spike/RBD IgA at 2–4 weeks post-dose 2 compared to participants who did not experience an infection, whereas IgG levels were comparable between groups. These data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines that elicit a durable IgA response may have utility in preventing infection.