Boosting vaccine responses in older persons

Study code

Lead researcher
Dr Michelle Linterman

Study type
Participant re-contact

Institution or company
Babraham Institute

Researcher type

Speciality area
Ageing, Infection, Primary Care

Recruitment Site


As we age the function of our immune system declines. The impact of this is that we are more susceptible to infections and less able to generate protective immunity after vaccination, further increasing the risk of infection. For example, it is estimated that ~75% of deaths from seasonal influenza occur in people over 65 years of age, and ~65% of influenza-related hospitalisations occur in people from this age group. Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve the effectiveness of vaccines, such as for seasonal influenza, in people over 65.

Public Health England estimates that a better seasonal influenza vaccine for this age group would result in 30,000 fewer general practitioner consultations, 2,000 fewer hospitalisations and prevent more than 700 deaths each year in England alone, thereby improving health and quality of life for persons over 65 and alleviating the workload associated with this disease on National Health Service. 

Our laboratory works to understand why older bodies do not respond well to vaccines. We have discovered that decreased responsiveness to a particular hormonal messenger, produced by the body after vaccination, is linked with diminished response to vaccination in aged mice. Importantly, by stimulating production of this hormonal messenger in aged mice we can improve their response to vaccination. The next step for this work is to determine whether increased responsiveness to this hormonal messenger is linked with better vaccine responses in older people. This is a proof-of-concept study which, if successful, will inform ways to improve vaccine formulations to enable older bodies to respond better to vaccination.


Participation: For this study 74 peolple over the age of 65 came to the Cambridge BioResource to attend 4 appointments at which a 50ml blood sample was given. 

Organisation: This study was organised by Dr Michelle Linterman of the Babraham Institute and will be run at Addenbrooke`s Hospital.