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SARS-CoV-2 vaccine immunogenicity varies between individuals, and immune responses correlate with vaccine efficacy. Using data from 1,076 participants enrolled in ChAdOx1 nCov-19 vaccine efficacy trials in the United Kingdom, we find that inter-individual variation in normalised antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) and its receptor binding domain (RBD) at 28 days following first vaccination shows genome-wide significant association with major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II alleles. The most statistically significant association with higher levels of anti-RBD antibody was HLA-DQB1*06 (P = 3.2 × 10-9), which we replicate in 1,677 additional vaccinees. Individuals carrying HLA-DQB1*06 alleles were less likely to experience PCR-confirmed breakthrough infection during the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 virus and subsequent Alpha-variant waves compared with non-carriers (HR 0.63, 0.42-0.93, P = 0.02). We identify a distinct S-derived peptide that is predicted to bind differentially to HLA-DQB1*06 compared with other similar alleles, and find evidence of increased spike-specific memory B-cell responses in HLA-DQB1*06 carriers at 84 days following first vaccination. Our results demonstrate association of HLA type with COVID-19 vaccine antibody response and risk of breakthrough infection, with implications for future vaccine design and implementation.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Med

Publication Date