Signs of immunosenescence correlate with poor outcome of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination in older adults

authored by
Miguel Ángel Palacios-Pedrero, Janina M. Jansen, Cornelia Blume, Nils Stanislawski, Rebecca Jonczyk, Antonia Molle, Mariana Gonzalez Hernandez, Franziska K. Kaiser, Klaus Jung, Albert D. M. E. Osterhaus, Guus F. Rimmelzwaan, Giulietta Saletti

Vaccination against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalization and fatal outcome. However, several studies indicated that there is reduced vaccine effectiveness among older individuals, which is correlated with their general health status

1,2. How and to what extent age-related immunological defects are responsible for the suboptimal vaccine responses observed in older individuals receiving SARS-CoV-2 messenger RNA vaccine, is unclear and not fully investigated

1,3–5. In this observational study, we investigated adaptive immune responses in adults of various ages (22–99 years old) receiving 2 doses of the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine. Vaccine-induced Spike-specific antibody, and T and memory B cell responses decreased with increasing age. These responses positively correlated with the percentages of peripheral naïve CD4

+ and CD8

+ T cells and negatively with CD8

+ T cells expressing signs of immunosenescence. Older adults displayed a preferred T cell response to the S2 region of the Spike protein, which is relatively conserved and a target for cross-reactive T cells induced by human ‘common cold’ coronaviruses. Memory T cell responses to influenza virus were not affected by age-related changes, nor the SARS-CoV-2-specific response induced by infection. Collectively, we identified signs of immunosenescence correlating with the outcome of vaccination against a new viral antigen to which older adults are immunologically naïve. This knowledge is important for the management of COVID-19 infections in older adults.

Institute of Technical Chemistry
Architectures and Systems Section
External Organisation(s)
University of Veterinary Medicine of Hannover, Foundation
Nature Aging
No. of pages
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Geriatrics and Gerontology, Ageing, Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
Electronic version(s) (Access: Open)