Influenza control in the 21st century: Optimizing protection of older adults

Vaccine. 2009 Aug 13;27(37):5043-53. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.06.032. Epub 2009 Jun 24.


Older adults (> or =65 years of age) are particularly vulnerable to influenza illness. This is due to a waning immune system that reduces their ability to respond to infection, which leads to more severe cases of disease. The majority ( approximately 90%) of influenza-related deaths occur in older adults and, in addition, catastrophic disability resulting from influenza-related hospitalization represents a significant burden in this vulnerable population. Current influenza vaccines provide benefits for older adults against influenza; however, vaccine effectiveness is lower than in younger adults. In addition, antigenic drift is also a concern, as it can impact on vaccine effectiveness due to a mismatch between the vaccine virus strain and the circulating virus strain. As such, vaccines that offer higher and broader protection against both homologous and heterologous virus strains are desirable. Approaches currently available in some countries to meet this medical need in older adults may include the use of adjuvanted vaccines. Future strategies under evaluation include the use of high-dose vaccines; novel or enhanced adjuvantation of current vaccines; use of live attenuated vaccines in combination with current vaccines; DNA vaccines; recombinant vaccines; as well as the use of different modes of delivery and alternative antigens. However, to truly evaluate the benefits that these solutions offer, further efficacy and effectiveness studies, and better correlates of protection, including a precise measurement of the T cell responses that are markers for protection, are needed. While it is clear that vaccines with greater immunogenicity are required for older adults, and that adjuvanted vaccines may offer a short-term solution, further research is required to exploit the many other new technologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Aged
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Cost of Illness
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology*
  • Influenza, Human / immunology
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / immunology
  • Vaccines, Virosome / immunology


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Attenuated
  • Vaccines, Virosome