Development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines that protect vulnerable populations is a public health priority. Here, we took a systematic and iterative approach by testing several adjuvants and SARS-CoV-2 antigens to identify a combination that elicits antibodies and protection in young and aged mice. While demonstrating superior immunogenicity to soluble receptor-binding domain (RBD), RBD displayed as a protein nanoparticle (RBD-NP) generated limited antibody responses. Comparison of multiple adjuvants including AddaVax, AddaS03, and AS01B in young and aged mice demonstrated that an oil-in-water emulsion containing carbohydrate fatty acid monosulphate derivative (CMS:O/W) most effectively enhanced RBD-NP-induced cross-neutralizing antibodies and protection across age groups. CMS:O/W enhanced antigen retention in the draining lymph node, induced injection site, and lymph node cytokines, with CMS inducing MyD88-dependent Th1 cytokine polarization. Furthermore, CMS and O/W synergistically induced chemokine production from human PBMCs. Overall, CMS:O/W adjuvant may enhance immunogenicity and protection of vulnerable populations against SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious pathogens.
The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant evades vaccine-induced immunity. While a booster dose of ancestral mRNA vaccines effectively elicits neutralizing antibodies against variants, its efficacy against Omicron in older adults, who are at the greatest risk of severe disease, is not fully elucidated. Here, we evaluate multiple longitudinal immunization regimens of mRNA BNT162b2 to assess the effects of a booster dose provided >8 months after the primary immunization series across the murine lifespan, including in aged 21-month-old mice. Boosting dramatically enhances humoral and cell-mediated responses with evidence of Omicron cross-recognition. Furthermore, while younger mice are protected without a booster dose, boosting provides sterilizing immunity against Omicron-induced lung infection in aged 21-month-old mice. Correlational analyses reveal that neutralizing activity against Omicron is strongly associated with protection. Overall, our findings indicate age-dependent vaccine efficacy and demonstrate the potential benefit of mRNA booster immunization to protect vulnerable older populations against SARS-CoV-2 variants.