AbstractBackgroundThe SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant (B.1.617.2), initially identified in India, has become predominant in several countries, including Portugal. Few studies have compared the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against Delta versus Alpha variant of concern (VOC) and estimated variant-specific viral loads in vaccine infection breakthroughs cases. In the context of Delta dominance, this information is critical to inform decision-makers regarding the planning of restrictions and vaccination roll-out.MethodsWe developed a case-case study to compare mRNA vaccines’ effectiveness against Delta (B.1.617.2) versus Alpha (B.1.1.7) variants. We used RT-PCR positive cases notified to the National Surveillance System between 17th of May and 4th of July 2021 (week 20 to 26) and information about demographics and vaccination status through the electronic vaccination register. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) or spike (S) gene target failure (SGTF) data were used to classify SARS-CoV-2 variants. The odds of vaccinated individuals to become infected (odds of vaccine infection breakthrough) in Delta cases compared to Alpha SARS-CoV-2 cases was estimated by conditional logistic regression adjusted for age group, sex, and matched by the week of diagnosis. As a surrogate of viral load, mean RT-PCR Ct values were stratified and compared between vaccine status and VOC.ResultsOf the 2 097 SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR positive cases included in the analysis, 966 (46.1%) were classified with WGS and 1131 (53.9%) with SGTF. Individuals infected with the Delta variant were more frequently vaccinated 162 (12%) than individuals infected with the Alpha variant 38 (5%). We report a statistically significant higher odds of vaccine infection breakthrough for partial (OR=1.70; CI95% 1.18 to 2.47) and complete vaccination (OR=1.96; CI95% 1.22 to 3.14) in the Delta cases when compared to the Alpha cases, suggesting lower mRNA vaccine effectiveness against Delta cases. On our secondary analysis, we observed lower mean Ct values for the Delta VOC cases versus Alpha, regardless the vaccination status. Additionally, the Delta variant cases revealed a Ct-value mean increase of 2.24 (CI95% 0.85 to 3.64) between unvaccinated and fully vaccinated breakthrough cases contrasting with 4.49 (CI95% 2.07 to 6.91) in the Alpha VOC, suggesting a lower impact of vaccine on viral load of Delta cases.ConclusionsWe found significantly higher odds of vaccine infection breakthrough in Delta cases when compared to Alpha cases, suggesting lower effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines in preventing infection with the Delta variant. Additionally, the vaccine breakthrough cases are estimated to be of higher mean Ct values, suggesting higher infectiousness with the Delta variant infection. These findings can help decision-makers weigh on the application or lifting of control measures and adjusting vaccine roll-out depending on the predominance of the Delta variant and the coverage of partial and complete mRNA vaccination.