Cytokine production after influenza vaccination in a healthy elderly population

Vaccine. 1998 Nov;16(18):1722-31. doi: 10.1016/s0264-410x(98)00140-6.


Influenza vaccination is less efficacious in the elderly than in the young. To characterize this age-related decrease in immune response to influenza vaccination, antibody and cell-mediated responses to influenza vaccine were assessed before immunization and 4 weeks after vaccination of a population of 270 healthy elderly individuals (mean age: 80.2 years) living in eight local continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and 30 young individuals (mean age: 27.8 years). The antibody titres produced against all three influenza strains increased significantly after vaccination in both the young and elderly (p < 0.0005); however, the young demonstrated significantly higher titres to all three strains than did the elderly (p < 0.03). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) cultured with influenza vaccine demonstrated significantly increased proliferation (elderly: p < 0.00005; young: p < 0.001) after vaccination, with proliferative responses in the young significantly higher than the elderly both before (p < 0.04) and after (p < 0.0005) vaccination. Similarly, IFN gamma production in these PBMC cultures increased significantly pre- to postvaccination in both young and elderly (young: p < 0.006; elderly: p < 0.00005), but the young produced more than the elderly both pre- and postvaccination (p < 0.0001). Following vaccination, PBMC production of IL-10 was higher in the young than in the elderly (p < 0.0015), while IL-6 production was comparable in both young and elderly individuals. Greater than 13% of the elderly population did not produce detectable IL-6, IL-10, or IFN gamma either before or after vaccination. The data show that the decreased cell-mediated and humoral responses to influenza vaccination of this healthy elderly population are accompanied by the production of lower levels of cytokines. A unique finding in this population of 270 healthy elderly was the association between a TH0 cytokine profile and intact immune responses to influenza vaccine. A similar relationship was not seen in the young.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Viral / biosynthesis
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / immunology
  • Influenza B virus / immunology
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology
  • Influenza Vaccines / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Vaccination


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Cytokines
  • Influenza Vaccines