Background: In July 2021, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) in the Delta lineage was detected in the United Kingdom (UK), named AY.4.2 or "Delta plus". By October 2021, the AY.4.2 variant accounted for approximately 10-11% of cases in the UK. AY.4.2 was designated as a variant under investigation by the UK Health and Security Agency on 20 October 2021. This study aimed to investigate vaccine effectiveness (VE) against symptomatic COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) infection and COVID-19 hospitalisation/death for the AY.4.2 variant.

Methods: We used the Scotland-wide Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance (EAVE-II) platform to estimate the VE of the ChAdOx1, BNT162b2, and mRNA-1273 vaccines against symptomatic infection and severe COVID-19 outcomes in adults. The study was conducted from June 8 to October 25, 2021. We used a test-negative design (TND) to estimate VE against reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) confirmed symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection while adjusting for sex, socioeconomic status, number of coexisting conditions, and splines in time and age. We also performed a cohort study using a Cox proportional hazards model to estimate VE against a composite outcome of COVID-19 hospital admission or death, with the same adjustments.

Results: We found an overall VE against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection due to AY.4.2 of 73% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 62-81) for >14 days post-second vaccine dose. Good protection against AY.4.2 symptomatic infection was observed for BNT162b2, ChAdOx1, and mRNA-1273. In unvaccinated individuals, the hazard ratio (HR) for COVID-19 hospital admission or death from AY.4.2 among community detected cases was 1.77 (95% CI = 1.02-3.07) relative to unvaccinated individuals who were infected with Delta, after adjusting for multiple potential confounders. VE against AY.4.2 COVID-19 admissions or deaths was 87% (95% CI = 74-93) >28 days post-second vaccination relative to unvaccinated.

Conclusions: We found that AY.4.2 was associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalisations or deaths in unvaccinated individuals compared with Delta and that vaccination provided substantial protection against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 and severe COVID-19 outcomes following Delta AY.4.2 infection. High levels of vaccine uptake and protection offered by existing vaccines, as well as the rapid emergence of the Omicron variant may have contributed to the AY.4.2 variant never progressing to a variant of concern.

Cite as

Kerr, S., Vasileiou, E., Robertson, C. & Sheikh, A. 2022, 'COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19 outcomes from Delta AY.4.2:Cohort and test-negative study of 5.4 million individuals in Scotland', Journal of Global Health, (12 ), article no: 05025 . https://doi.org/10.7189/jogh.12.05025

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Last updated: 05 August 2022
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