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Vaccine-associated enhanced disease (VAED) is a difficult phenomenon to define and can be confused with vaccine failure. Using studies on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccination and dengue virus infection, we highlight known and theoretical mechanisms of VAED, including antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE), antibody-enhanced disease (AED) and Th2-mediated pathology. We also critically review the literature surrounding this phenomenon in pathogenic human coronaviruses, including MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. Poor quality histopathological data and a lack of consistency in defining severe pathology and VAED in preclinical studies of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-1 vaccines in particular make it difficult to interrogate potential cases of VAED. Fortuitously, there have been only few reports of mild VAED in SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in preclinical models and no observations in their clinical use. We describe the problem areas and discuss methods to improve the characterisation of VAED in the future.

Original publication




Journal article


Frontiers in immunology

Publication Date





Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics and Pandemic Sciences Institute, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Humans, Vaccines, Antibodies, Viral, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 Vaccines