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Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Apr 1;46(7):1078-84. doi: 10.1086/529197.

Biology of immune responses to vaccines in elderly persons.

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


With increasing age, the human immune system undergoes characteristic changes, termed immunosenescence, which lead to increased incidence and severity of infectious diseases and to insufficient protection following vaccination. Functional defects and altered frequencies of innate and adaptive immune cells impair local responses at the site of vaccine injection, hamper the generation of primary responses to neoantigens, prevent the effective induction of memory lymphocytes, and decrease the effect of booster vaccination. As a result, antibody responses of elderly vaccinees are weaker and decline faster, and long-term protective effects of vaccination cannot be taken for granted in elderly persons. Improved vaccination strategies, new adjuvants, and new vaccines that specifically target the aged immune system will help to overcome the limitations of immunosenescence and ensure a better protection of the vulnerable elderly population.

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