Primary prevention strategies, such as vaccinations at the age extremes, in neonates and elderly individuals, demonstrate a challenge to health professionals and public health specialists. The aspects of the differentiation and maturation of the adaptive immune system, the functional implications of immunological immaturity or immunosenescence and its impact on vaccine immunogenicity and efficacy will be highlighted in this review. Several approaches have been undertaken to promote Th1 responses in neonates and to enhance immune functions in elderly, such as conjugation to carrier proteins, addition of adjuvants, concomitant vaccination with other vaccines, change in antigen concentrations or dose intervals or use of different administration routes. Also, early protection by maternal vaccination seems to be beneficial in neonates. However, it also appears necessary to think of other end points than antibody concentrations to assess vaccine efficacy in neonates or elderly, as also the cellular immune response may be impaired by the mechanisms of immaturity, underlying health conditions, immunosuppressive treatments or immunosenescence. Thus, lifespan vaccine programs should be implemented to all individuals on a population level not only to improve herd protection and to maintain protective antibody levels and immune memory, but also to cover all age groups, to protect unvaccinated elderly persons and to provide indirect protection for neonates and small infants.

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