Immune Profile and Clinical Outcome of Breakthrough Cases After Vaccination With an Inactivated SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine

Luisa F. Duarte, Nicolás M.S. Gálvez, Carolina Iturriaga, Felipe Melo-González, Jorge A. Soto, Bárbara M. Schultz, Marcela Urzúa, Liliana A. González, Yaneisi Vázquez, Mariana Ríos, Roslye V. Berríos-Rojas, Daniela Rivera-Pérez, Daniela Moreno-Tapia, Gaspar A. Pacheco, Omar P. Vallejos, Guillermo Hoppe-Elsholz, María S. Navarrete, Álvaro Rojas, Rodrigo A. Fasce, Jorge FernándezJudith Mora, Eugenio Ramírez, Gang Zeng, Weining Meng, José V. González-Aramundiz, Pablo A. González, Katia Abarca, Susan M. Bueno, Alexis M. Kalergis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Constant efforts to prevent infections by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are actively carried out around the world. Several vaccines are currently approved for emergency use in the population, while ongoing studies continue to provide information on their safety and effectiveness. CoronaVac is an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine with a good safety and immunogenicity profile as seen in phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials around the world, with an effectiveness of 65.9% for symptomatic cases. Although vaccination reduces the risk of disease, infections can still occur during or after completion of the vaccination schedule (breakthrough cases). This report describes the clinical and immunological profile of vaccine breakthrough cases reported in a clinical trial in progress in Chile that is evaluating the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of two vaccination schedules of CoronaVac ( NCT04651790). Out of the 2,263 fully vaccinated subjects, at end of June 2021, 45 have reported symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection 14 or more days after the second dose (1.99% of fully vaccinated subjects). Of the 45 breakthrough cases, 96% developed mild disease; one case developed a moderate disease; and one developed a severe disease and required mechanical ventilation. Both cases that developed moderate and severe disease were adults over 60 years old and presented comorbidities. The immune response before and after SARS-CoV-2 infection was analyzed in nine vaccine breakthrough cases, revealing that six of them exhibited circulating anti-S1-RBD IgG antibodies with neutralizing capacities after immunization, which showed a significant increase 2 and 4 weeks after symptoms onset. Two cases exhibited low circulating anti-S1-RBD IgG and almost non-existing neutralizing capacity after either vaccination or infection, although they developed a mild disease. An increase in the number of interferon-γ-secreting T cells specific for SARS-CoV-2 was detected 2 weeks after the second dose in seven cases and after symptoms onset. In conclusion, breakthrough cases were mostly mild and did not necessarily correlate with a lack of vaccine-induced immunity, suggesting that other factors, to be defined in future studies, could lead to symptomatic infection after vaccination with CoronaVac.

Original languageEnglish
Article number742914
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • breakthrough cases
  • CoronaVac
  • COVID-19
  • phase 3 clinical trial
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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