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Expert Rev Mol Med. 2007 Feb 1;9(3):1-17.

Age-related changes in immunity: implications for vaccination in the elderly.

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  • 1Institute for Biomedical Aging Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck, Austria.


Average life expectancy is continuously rising in all developed countries, leading to an ever-increasing elderly population. Of the many functions of the body affected by the complex process of ageing, the immune system in particular undergoes various changes, collectively termed immunosenescence. As a result, elderly people are more susceptible to infections and are frequently less protected by vaccines. This review summarises the effect of ageing on immunity, emphasising the age-associated changes within T and B cells at a molecular and cellular level. Furthermore, it discusses strategies, such as the addition of immunostimulatory adjuvants and the use of potent antigen-delivery systems, that may counteract age-related defects in immune responses to vaccination. A proper understanding of how immunological memory is affected by ageing, and the introduction of strategies to ameliorate vaccine efficacy in the elderly, might reduce the incidence and the severity of infectious disease within this fragile age group and have a strong impact on the quality of life of elderly individuals.

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