When the Flu Vax Fails

The status of a person’s immune system can predict when a seasonal flu vaccination will not provide sufficient protection, according to a study. 

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef (an unusual nickname for Jennifer) got her master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses. After four years of diving off the Gulf...

View full profile.

Learn about our editorial policies.

Dec 16, 2015

FLICKR, NIAIDVaccinating 212 people, including 54 elderly folks, researchers have identified molecular signatures in blood samples that could predict, with 80-percent accuracy, whether the seasonal flu vaccine would elicit significant immune protection. The study, published yesterday (December 15) in Immunity, could pave the way for more-effective vaccines, according to the researchers.

“We provide novel evidence of a potential connection between the baseline state of the immune system in the elderly and reduced responsiveness to vaccination,” coauthors Shankar Subramaniam of the University of California, San Diego, and Bali Pulendran of Emory University said in a press release. “By providing a more complete picture of how the immune system responds to vaccination, our findings may help guide the development of next-generation vaccines that offer long-lasting immunity and better protection of at-risk populations.”

The researchers combined their results on 212 vaccinated individuals with previously published data for 218 subjects, finding...

Subramaniam hopes that the findings will be able to help researchers tailor future vaccines to the immune status of an individual. “Before I give a vaccine, can I look at your immune status and then tell you your immune status will be fantastic to this vaccine, or you’re not going to be responding greatly, so let’s hold off on giving you a vaccine,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Interested in reading more?

When the Flu Vax Fails



Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archived stories, digital editions of The Scientist Magazine, and much more!
Already a member?