• XBB.1.5 COVID-19 mRNA vaccine elicits neutralizing antibodies against current variants
• Depletion of Wuhan-Hu-1 S-reactive plasma antibodies abrogate XBB.1.5 neutralization
• XBB.1.5 COVID-19 mRNA vaccine primary recalls Wuhan-Hu-1 S-reactive memory B cells

Immune imprinting describes how the first exposure to a virus shapes immunological outcomes of subsequent exposures to antigenically related strains. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron breakthrough infections and bivalent COVID-19 vaccination primarily recall cross-reactive memory B cells induced by prior Wuhan-Hu-1 spike mRNA vaccination rather than priming Omicron-specific naive B cells. These findings indicate that immune imprinting occurs after repeated Wuhan-Hu-1 spike exposures, but whether it can be overcome remains unclear. To understand the persistence of immune imprinting, we investigated memory and plasma antibody responses after administration of the updated XBB.1.5 COVID-19 mRNA vaccine booster. We showed that the XBB.1.5 booster elicited neutralizing antibody responses against current variants that were dominated by recall of pre-existing memory B cells previously induced by the Wuhan-Hu-1 spike. Therefore, immune imprinting persists after multiple exposures to Omicron spikes through vaccination and infection, including post XBB.1.5 booster vaccination, which will need to be considered to guide future vaccination.

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