Vaccines and infectious diseases in the ageing population


As people age, their immune systems become weaker, and they become more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Preventing these infections through a proper vaccination strategy is essential for promoting healthy ageing. The VITAL project will map the burden of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases in the elderly, and investigate vaccinations and immunity to infections in the ageing population. The team will also calculate the clinical and economic consequences of possible vaccination strategies in different age and risk groups, and develop educational materials for stakeholders such as healthcare providers. Ultimately, by addressing the challenge of infectious diseases in the elderly, the VITAL project will contribute to better health for the ageing populations, and a reduced burden on healthcare systems.

Achievements & News

We’re living longer. What does that mean for existing vaccine strategies?

IMI vaccine project VITAL is tallying the burden of infectious diseases in ageing adults to figure out the best strategies to keep people healthier for longer. In an interview with the IMI Programme Office, project coordinator Debbie van Baarle of at the University Medical Centre, Groningen sets out the project’s objectives and progress so far.###

‘Ageing adults are more exposed to infections than other age-groups except children. Moreover, when they have an infection, they suffer more than others and therefore they may have more difficulties in recovering well promptly,’ she explains. ‘This has been exemplified by the current COVID-19 pandemic.’

The major objective of VITAL is to improve vaccination strategies by understanding better which infectious diseases affect ageing adults the most, why they respond worse to infections and vaccinations, and what strategies could assist in improving heathy ageing in this group.

The project is already making progress. ‘One milestone we already achieved is in obtaining insights into the perspective of older people on vaccination,’ says Professor van Baarle. ‘This will help in communicating about vaccination. Furthermore, we are analysing and comparing vaccination responses between older and younger people to understand the deficits underlying immune protection in elderly.’

Asked how the project will affect the lives of older people, Professor van Baarle is clear. ‘If the project is successful, we will have a coordinated and efficient vaccination programme for ageing adults akin to what exists today for children,’ she explains. ‘The final goal is to have a more efficient and sustainable preventative programme in place that can ensure healthy ageing in European adults.’

Find out more


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EFPIA companies
  • Biomerieux SA, Marcy L'Etoile, France
  • Federation Europeenne D'Associations Et D'Industries Pharmaceutiques, Brussels, Belgium
  • Glaxosmithkline Biologicals SA, Rixensart, Belgium
  • Janssen Vaccines & Prevention BV, Leiden, Netherlands
  • Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, United States
  • Pfizer Limited, Sandwich, Kent , United Kingdom
  • Sanofi Pasteur SA, Lyon, France
Universities, research organisations, public bodies, non-profit groups
  • Academisch Ziekenhuis Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
  • Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique Cnrs, Paris, France
  • Folkehelseinstituttet, Oslo, Norway
  • Fundacion Para El Fomento De La Investigacion Sanitaria Y Biomedica De La Comunitat Valenciana, Valencia, Spain
  • Institut National De La Sante Et De La Recherche Medicale, Paris, France
  • Istituto Superiore Di Sanita, Roma, Italy
  • Rijksinstituut Voor Volksgezondheid En Milieu, Bilthoven, Netherlands
  • Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen S, Denmark
  • Universita Degli Studi Di Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy
  • Universitaet Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Universite Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne, Saint Etienne Cedex 2, France
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-sized companies (<€500 m turnover)
  • Mihajlovic Jovan, Novi Sad, Serbia
  • P95 CVBA, Leuven, Belgium
  • Stichting European Clinical Research Alliance On Infectious Diseases, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Syreon Kutato Intezet Korlatolt Felelossegu Tarsasag, Budapest, Hungary

NameEU funding in €
Academisch Ziekenhuis Groningen690 000
Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique Cnrs12 500
Folkehelseinstituttet248 473
Fundacion Para El Fomento De La Investigacion Sanitaria Y Biomedica De La Comunitat Valenciana291 424
Institut National De La Sante Et De La Recherche Medicale230 000
Istituto Superiore Di Sanita90 603
Mihajlovic Jovan60 000
P95 CVBA186 375
Rijksinstituut Voor Volksgezondheid En Milieu1 919 535
Statens Serum Institut206 936
Stichting European Clinical Research Alliance On Infectious Diseases10 000
Syreon Kutato Intezet Korlatolt Felelossegu Tarsasag255 976
Universita Degli Studi Di Ferrara230 625
Universitaet Innsbruck263 750
Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht603 686
Universite Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne200 000
Total Cost5 499 883