Revealed: Why the flu vaccine is less effective in older people

You might get your vaccine every flu season but that doesn’t mean you are immune to getting it… and now

You might get your vaccine every flu season but that doesn’t mean you are immune to getting it… and now we know why.

It can strike us at any time during the year, however flu season generally coincides with a change of season.

A study published by Cell Press on December 15th 2015 in Immunity explains why the flu vaccine is less effective at protecting older individuals.

Flu vaccines, which contain proteins found in circulating viral strains, offer protection by producing antibodies, which help the immune system protect against infectious disease. While vaccination is considered the most effective method for preventing influenza, it is less effective in the elderly and now we know why.

Researchers vaccinated 212 subjects, including 54 elderly individuals, across five influenza vaccine seasons, from 2007 to 2011, and analysed blood samples to identify molecular pathways associated with protective antibody responses elicited by vaccination.

Within one week of flu vaccination, younger people showed high levels of antibody-producing B cells, whereas the elderly showed high levels of immune cells called monocytes, which give an inflammatory response in the body.

These age-related differences predicted vaccine-induced immune responses observed in the elderly three weeks later.

“While it is early to suggest, supplementary therapeutic approaches, such as reducing the inflammatory response in elderly patients after vaccination, would be valuable avenues to pursue. However, this warrants longer and more detailed investigations”, said co-author Shankar Subramaniam.

The researchers now plan on doing similar studies on shingles and yellow fever.

But don’t stop getting your flu shot yet: it’s still recommended for over 65s.

Tell us your thoughts below.

  1. Sorry I cannot agree. Had my first flu shot last year. I did not suffer flu or minor head colds at all this year. I am with small children a great deal and usually they transfer the viruses. So I will have it again this year. x

  2. flu shot 5yrs ago, ended up with sars a mth later in hospital 3 times over that yr.. so ive never had another one…. and i havent even had a cold, flu or sinus since.

  3. I’ll stick with what my doctor, who knows my full medical history, advises me, & so far I’ve had the shot every year without getting influenza, I trust her more than FB articles.

    • Same with me . I’ve had the shot for about the last 5 years and not had the flu nor any side effects . I haven’t even had a cold either .

    • Same here Lyn, I’ve been having the flu shot for 25yrs and never had any problems even though I worked with kids with disabilities who have very poor immune systems and are always getting anything going, I’ll continue to do so.

    • After last winter, when I got every virus including flu, in spite of a good immune system, I will have the flu shot this year!

    • I can’t remember ever having had flu but my doctor advised an annual flu shot when I turned 60 and I’ve had one ever since (I’m 73 next week). I haven’t even had a cold in all that time.

    • I’m an Asthmatic and the Flu can be life threatening for me. i used to be ill for 2-3 weeks but since having a flu shot each year it’s not an issue.

  4. Interesting article. Shows that today’s knowledge is just that — today’s. Have never had the “flu”, a few colds, but nothing more. Each to their own, everyone is different.

  5. No sorry I have been having the flu shot since I was 40 yrs old because it was compulsory for us working with kids with disabilities, and I have never had the flu since. I will continue to have the flu shot so long as I’m here to have it.

  6. Have had flu shot, not a sniffle this year ..oophs still 2 days to go lol .. all good .we have them every year .

  7. I haven’t ever had one. Not that I am against them, I just forget. I am conscious of my vulnerability to flu and colds everytime I have to sit and wait in the doctors waiting room or on a bus trip when we are all enclosed in a small place.
    Havent been sick this year. But….my next door neighbour has a dreadful cough so I am keeping my distance.

  8. i have had the Flu shot for several years and so far so good, because I have a Lung condition that could be compromised by Flu I will continue with the shot until told otherwise.

  9. I was told by gp have flu shot in March before the virus is flying around. Have done that and no flu

  10. Joan Marshall  

    At 70 I always take the flu shot so that even if I get the flu hopefully it will not be so bad which because of age knocks you about for weeks.

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