A third dose of the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine significantly improves immune responses among liver transplant recipients

Yana Davidov, Victoria Indenbaum, Keren Tsaraf, Oranit Cohen-Ezra, Mariya Likhter, Gil Ben Yakov, Rebecca Halperin, Itzchak Levy, Orna Mor, Nancy Agmon-Levin, Arnon Afek, Galia Rahav, Yaniv Lustig, Ziv Ben Ari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Immune responses of solid organ transplant recipients to 2 doses of the BNT162b2 mRNA anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccine are impaired. The immunogenicity and safety of a third dose among liver transplant (LT) recipients are unknown. This work aimed to evaluate the immune response of LT recipients to a third dose of the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine. Methods: Consecutive LT recipients (n = 61) in follow-up at Sheba Medical Center were included. Receptor binding domain (RBD) IgG, neutralizing antibody (NA) titers, and T-cell levels before and 21-28 days after a third vaccine dose were determined. Adverse effects after the third dose were monitored. Results: The median age of LT recipients was 65 years and 57.4% were male. The humoral immune response rate improved significantly, with 56% of patients showing a response before the third vaccine dose compared to 98% after the third dose. The cellular response in 12 evaluated patients improved significantly (p = 0.008). The geometric mean of anti-RBD IgG levels, NA levels, and T-cell count also increased significantly after the third dose. NA titers after the third dose negatively correlated with age (p = 0.03), mycophenolate mofetil treatment (p = 0.005), and combined immunosuppression as opposed to calcineurin inhibitor monotherapy (p = 0.001). After the third dose, adverse effects were reported by 37% of recipients and were mostly mild (local pain and fatigue). Conclusion: After a third BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine, the immune response improved significantly among LT recipients, without serious adverse effects. Further studies are needed to evaluate immune response durability and to determine the optimal number and schedule of booster vaccine doses. Lay summary: The Pfizer-Biotech BNT162b2SARS-CoV-2 vaccine induced significant immunity among liver transplant recipients after a third dose. The majority of the patients developed sufficient levels of both humoral and cellular immune responses. Factors that predict non-response were older age and immunosuppressive medications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-709
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • BNT162b2 mRNA
  • antibody response
  • immune response
  • liver transplant recipients
  • side effects BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine
  • third dose


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