The significant increase in human longevity raises the crucial issue of healthy aging and how to tailor vaccines and immunization strategies to a population that is particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. The 3rd Aging and Immunity Meeting brought together 72 experts from 11 countries to review the basis for immune senescence and to discuss the possibilities for counteracting the waning responsiveness of the immune system and restoring immune-competence in the elderly.
The meeting featured a key-note address by Dr. David E. Bloom, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Bloom emphasized the value of increasing vaccination coverage in the older population, which has shown benefits that extend well beyond the reduced medical costs of those vaccinated. A second key-note presentation, by Dr. Robert Seder, Chief of the Cellular Immunology Section of the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center, illustrated how the design of vaccine adjuvants can be optimized to elicit broad-based immune response.
Participants reviewed the burden of diseases afflicting the elderly population. Other topics included recent progress in the understanding of the mechanisms of immune senescence, the contribution of “big data” to re-define biomarkers of immune responsiveness in the elderly, and improving vaccine efficacy in older individuals.
In conclusion, a prominent message that emerged from the meeting was the importance to define strategies that integrate the new understanding of the basis of immune senescence with vaccinology and gerontology. The most appropriate ways must be found to translate current scientific knowledge into vaccination strategies, particularly for the poorest countries.