Preserving good health in old age is of utmost importance to alleviate societal, economic and health care-related challenges caused by an aging society. The prevalence and severity of many infectious diseases is higher in older adults, and in addition to the acute disease, long-term sequelae, such as exacerbation of underlying chronic disease, onset of frailty or increased long-term care dependency, are frequent. Prevention of infections e.g. by vaccination is therefore an important measure to ensure healthy aging and preserve quality of life. Several vaccines are specifically recommended for older adults in many countries, and in the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic older adults were among the first target groups for vaccination due to their high risk for severe disease. This review highlights clinical data on the influenza, Streptococcus pneumoniae and herpes zoster vaccines, summarizes recent developments to improve vaccine efficacy, such as the use of adjuvants or higher antigen dose for influenza, and gives an overview of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development for older adults. Substantial research is ongoing to further improve vaccines, e.g. by developing universal influenza and pneumococcal vaccines to overcome the limitations of the current strain-specific vaccines, and to develop novel vaccines against pathogens, which cause considerable morbidity and mortality in older adults, but for which no vaccines are currently available. In addition, we need to improve uptake of the existing vaccines and increase awareness for life-long vaccination in order to provide optimal protection for the vulnerable older age group.
Birgit Weinberger: Institute for Biomedical Aging Research, Universität Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria