Introduction

The incidence and severity of many infections are increased in older adults. Influenza causes approximately 36,000 deaths and more than 100,000 hospitalizations in the USA every year, the majority of which occur in persons older than 65 years [1,2]. The incidence of herpes zoster is particularly high in the old and it has been estimated that up to 50 % of all cases affect people >85 years of age [3]. Pneumonia and invasive disease (bacteremia, meningitis, etc.) caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, group B streptococci (GBS) and other bacteria are also prevalent in the older population [4-6]. In addition, urinary tract infections as well as infections of the skin and soft tissue frequently affect the old [7, 8]. The reasons for this increased risk include underlying chronic disease, anatomical changes e.g. in the skin, lung and urinary tract, medical procedures, such as surgery and catheters, as well as altered immune function in old age [9]. The most effective measure to prevent infectious disease is vaccination. The outstanding success of childhood vaccination is undoubted, but the importance of vaccination beyond the paediatric age is frequently underestimated. Over the last 20-30 years tremendous progress has been achieved in developing novel/improved vaccines for children, but a lot of work still needs to be done to optimize vaccines for the elderly.

 
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