The epidemiologic and biologic basis for classifying older age as a high-risk, immunocompromising condition for pneumococcal vaccine policy

Expert Rev Vaccines. 2021 Jun;20(6):691-705. doi: 10.1080/14760584.2021.1921579. Epub 2021 Jul 8.


Introduction: Immunosenescence is a normal biologic process involving deterioration of protective immune responses. Consequently, older adults experience increased risk of infectious diseases, particularly pneumonia, and its leading bacterial cause, Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumococcal vaccine recommendations are often limited to adults with specific medical conditions despite similar disease risks among older adults due to immunosenescence.

Areas covered: This article reviews epidemiologic, biologic, and clinical evidence supporting the consideration of older age due to immunosenescence as an immunocompromising condition for the purpose of pneumococcal vaccine policy and the role vaccination can play in healthy aging.

Expert opinion: Epidemiologic and biologic evidence suggest that pneumococcal disease risk increases with age and is comparable for healthy older adults and younger adults with immunocompromising conditions. Because immunocompromising conditions are already indicated for pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs), a comprehensive public health strategy would also recognize immunosenescence. Moreover, older persons should be vaccinated before reaching the highest risk ages, consistent with the approach for other immunocompromising conditions. To facilitate PCV use among older adults, vaccine technical committees (VTCs) could classify older age as an immunocompromising condition based on the process of immunosenescence. With global aging, VTCs will need to consider immunosenescence and vaccine use during healthy aging.

Keywords: adults; aging; immunosenescence; pneumococcal; pneumonia; vaccine; vaccine policy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Pneumococcal Infections* / epidemiology
  • Pneumococcal Infections* / prevention & control
  • Pneumococcal Vaccines*
  • Policy
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines, Conjugate


  • Pneumococcal Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Conjugate