Protection of mRNA vaccines against hospitalized COVID-19 in adults over the first year following authorization in the United States

Author Department

Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Background: COVID-19 mRNA vaccines were authorized in the United States in December 2020. Although vaccine effectiveness (VE) against mild infection declines markedly after several months, limited understanding exists on the long-term durability of protection against COVID-19-associated hospitalization.

Methods: Case control analysis of adults (≥18 years) hospitalized at 21 hospitals in 18 states March 11 - December 15, 2021, including COVID-19 case patients and RT-PCR-negative controls. We included adults who were unvaccinated or vaccinated with two doses of a mRNA vaccine before the date of illness onset. VE over time was assessed using logistic regression comparing odds of vaccination in cases versus controls, adjusting for confounders. Models included dichotomous time (<180 vs ≥180 days since dose two) and continuous time modeled using restricted cubic splines.

Results: 10,078 patients were included, 4906 cases (23% vaccinated) and 5172 controls (62% vaccinated). Median age was 60 years (IQR 46-70), 56% were non-Hispanic White, and 81% had ≥1 medical condition. Among immunocompetent adults, VE <180 days was 90% (95%CI: 88-91) vs 82% (95%CI: 79-85) at ≥180 days (p < 0.001). VE declined for Pfizer-BioNTech (88% to 79%, p < 0.001) and Moderna (93% to 87%, p < 0.001) products, for younger adults (18-64 years) [91% to 87%, p = 0.005], and for adults ≥65 years of age (87% to 78%, p < 0.001). In models using restricted cubic splines, similar changes were observed.

Conclusion: In a period largely pre-dating Omicron variant circulation, effectiveness of two mRNA doses against COVID-19-associated hospitalization was largely sustained through 9 months.

Keywords: COVID-19; duration of protection; mRNA; vaccine effectiveness; waning.