Precision Medicine and Vaccination of Older Adults: From Reactive to Proactive (A Mini-Review)


As populations age globally, the health of older adults is looming larger on the agendas of public health bodies. In particular, the priority is to ensure that older adults remain healthy, independent, and engaged in their communities. In other words, ensuring that increasing life spans are matched by increasing “health spans,” meaning years spent in good health. Chronic conditions such as cancer or respiratory and cardiovascular diseases account for the bulk of the disease burden in older adults, and the consensus is that these can best be tackled by effective primary prevention. However, given the diverse nature of older populations, whose prior health experiences can be complicated by multi-morbidity and poly-pharmacy, effective primary prevention can be challenging. One approach that is gaining momentum is what is called “precision” or P4 medicine. The acronym stands for “predictive, personalized, preventive, participatory” medicine, and is based on the premise that preventing disease is better than treating it. However, effective prevention requires the ability to predict disease risk for a given patient, the tailoring of treatment to their circumstances, and their consent for or participation in the offered treatment. A P4 approach may seem counter-intuitive, given that vaccination is generally considered a public health intervention. However, in this article, we discuss the application of P4 medicine as a complement to planning the vaccination of older individuals, with a special focus on the important role that vaccine-preventable infections play in the burden of non-communicable disease.


Mark Doherty: Global Medical Affairs, GSK, Wavre, Belgium

Alberta Di Pasquale: Global Medical Affairs, GSK, Wavre, Belgium

Jean-Pierre Michel: Geriatric Department, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

Giuseppe Del Giudice: Vaccine Research and Development Discovery Performance, GSK, Siena, Italy

Published: Karger Gerontology, November 26th, 2019

Key words: Precision medicine , Vaccination, Non-communicable, diseases, Older adults