Immunosenescence and Altered Vaccine Efficiency in Older Subjects: A Myth Difficult to Change
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Organismal ageing is associated with many physiological changes, including differences in the immune system of most animals. These differences are often considered to be a key cause of age-associated diseases as well as decreased vaccine responses in humans. The most often cited vaccine failure is seasonal influenza, but, while it is usually the case that the efficiency of this vaccine is lower in older than younger adults, this is not always true, and the reasons for the differential responses are manifold. Undoubtedly, changes in the innate and adaptive immune response with ageing are associated with failure to respond to the influenza vaccine, but the cause is unclear. Moreover, recent advances in vaccine formulations and adjuvants, as well as in our understanding of immune changes with ageing, have contributed to the development of vaccines, such as those against herpes zoster and SARS-CoV-2, that can protect against serious disease in older adults just as well as in younger people. In the present article, we discuss the reasons why it is a myth that vaccines inevitably protect less well in older individuals, and that vaccines represent one of the most powerful means to protect the health and ensure the quality of life of older adults.
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