Several variants of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged. Those with mutations in the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2) receptor binding domain (RBD) are associated with increased transmission and severity. In this study, we developed both antibody quantification and functional assays. Analyses of both COVID-19 convalescent and diagnostic cohorts strongly support the use of RBD antibody levels as an excellent surrogate to biochemical neutralization activities. Data further revealed that the samples from mRNA vaccinated individuals had a median of 17 times higher RBD antibody levels and a similar degree of increased neutralization activities against RBD-ACE2 binding than those from natural infections. Our data showed that N501Y RBD had 5-fold higher ACE2 binding than the original variant. While antisera from naturally infected subjects had substantially reduced neutralization ability against N501Y RBD, all blood samples from vaccinated individuals were highly effective in neutralizing it. Thus, our data indicates that mRNA vaccination is far more effective than natural immunity in generating highly effective neutralizing antibodies. It further suggests a potential need to maintain high RBD antibody levels to control the more infectious SARS-CoV-2 variants.