BACKGROUND: Individuals with a prior Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection have a moderate to high degree of protection against reinfection, though seemingly less so when the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 started to circulate. The aim of this study was to evaluate the vaccine effectiveness (VE) against SARS-CoV-2 reinfection, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related hospitalization, and COVID-19-related death, in individuals with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, and to assess the effect of time since vaccination during periods with different dominant SARS-CoV-2 variants.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: This study used a nationwide cohort design including all individuals with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, who were alive, and residing in Denmark between 1 January 2020 and 31 January 2022. Using Danish nationwide registries, we obtained information on SARS-CoV-2 infections, COVID-19 vaccination, age, sex, comorbidity, staying at hospital, and country of origin. The study population included were individuals with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Estimates of VE against SARS-CoV-2 reinfection with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using a Poisson regression model and adjusted for age, sex, country of origin, comorbidity, staying at hospital, calendar time, and test incidence using a Cox regression model. The VE estimates were calculated separately for three periods with different dominant SARS-CoV-2 variants (Alpha (B.1.1.7), Delta (B.1.617.2), or Omicron (B.1.1.529)) and by time since vaccination using unvaccinated as the reference. In total, 148,527 person-years and 44,192 SARS-CoV-2 infections were included for the analysis regarding reinfections. The study population comprised of 209,814 individuals infected before or during the Alpha period, 292,978 before or during the Delta period, and 245,530 before or during the Omicron period. Of these, 40,281 individuals had completed their primary vaccination series during the Alpha period (19.2%), 190,026 during the Delta period (64.9%), and 158,563 during the Omicron period (64.6%). VE against reinfection following any COVID-19 vaccine type administered in Denmark, peaked at 71% (95% CI: -Inf to 100%) at 104 days or more after vaccination during the Alpha period, 94% (95% CI: 92% to 96%) 14 to 43 days after vaccination during the Delta period, and 60% (95% CI: 58% to 62%) 14 to 43 days after vaccination during the Omicron period. Waning immunity following vaccination was observed and was most pronounced during the Omicron period. Due to too few events, it was not possible to estimate VE for hospitalization and death. Study limitations include potentially undetected reinfections, differences in health-seeking behavior, or risk behavior between the compared groups.
CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that in previously infected individuals, completing a primary vaccination series was associated with a significant protection against SARS-CoV-2 reinfection compared with no vaccination. Even though vaccination seems to protect to a lesser degree against reinfection with the Omicron variant, these findings are of public health relevance as they show that previously infected individuals still benefit from COVID-19 vaccination in all three variant periods.