SARS-CoV-2 spike mRNA vaccines mediate protection from severe disease as early as 10 days post prime vaccination, when specific antibodies are hardly detectable and still lack neutralizing activity. Vaccine-induced T cells, especially CD8+ T cells, may thus be the main mediators of protection at this early stage. The details of antigen-specific CD8+ T cell induction after prime/boost vaccination, their comparison to naturally induced CD8+ T cell responses and their association with other arms of vaccine-induced adaptive immunity remain, however, incompletely understood. Here, we show on a single epitope level that both, a stable memory precursor pool of spike-specific CD8+ T cells and fully functional spike-specific effector CD8+ T cell populations, are vigorously mobilized as early as one week after prime vaccination when CD4+ T cell and spike-specific antibody responses are still weak and neutralizing antibodies are lacking. Boost vaccination after 3 weeks induced a full-fledged recall expansion generating highly differentiated CD8+ effector T cells, however, neither the functional capacity nor the memory precursor T cell pool was affected. Compared to natural infection, vaccine-induced early memory T cells exhibited similar frequencies and functional capacities but a different subset distribution dominated by effector memory T cells at the expense of self-renewing and multipotent central memory T cells. Our results indicate that spike-specific CD8+ T cells may represent the major correlate of early protection after SARS-CoV-2 mRNA/bnt162b2 prime vaccination that precede other effector arms of vaccine-induced adaptive immunity and are stably maintained after boost vaccination.