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Microb Biotechnol. 2012 Mar;5(2):226-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7915.2011.00283.x. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

Vaccination in the elderly.

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Tübingen Ageing and Tumour Immunology Group, Center for Medical Research, University of Tübingen Medical School, Waldhörnlestr. 22, D-72072 Tübingen, Germany.


There is a general consensus that the elderly do not respond as well to vaccination as the young, but robust studies are few and far between. Most refer to influenza vaccination, but even here, adequate immunological and clinical data are surprisingly thin on the ground. The meta-analysis by Goodwin et al. from 2006 is still the most comprehensive that we have. They reviewed 31 antibody response studies comparing influenza vaccination efficacy in groups of elderly and younger adults. They reported that the adjusted odds ratio (OR) of responses in elderly versus young adults ranged from 0.24 to 0.59 for the three influenza antigens used in the vaccines. They concluded that rather than the estimated 70-90% clinical vaccine efficacy in younger adults, this figure was only 17-53% in the elderly, depending on which viruses were prevalent that year. They stated that 'this highlights the need for more immunogenic vaccine formulations for the elderly'. How to achieve this? There are three areas where we may consider alterations to increase vaccine efficacy: (i) make the vaccine more potent; (ii) use adjuvants to enhance immunity; and (iii) apply immune modulators or other interventions to alter host immunity generally. We will consider these three options, focusing on influenza vaccination, in this mini-review.

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