Does the flu vaccine work as well in elderly people?

Ask the doctors

Published: December, 2019

Q. My mother is in her late 80s. She received the flu vaccine this year, but I heard that it won't be as effective because of her age. Is this true?

A. The flu vaccine can be less effective in elderly adults. That's because the flu vaccine works by priming the body's own immune system to mount a response to the virus if it's encountered. Older adults may have weaker immune systems, and therefore a weaker immune response to the vaccine.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise

New subscriptions to Harvard Health Online are temporarily unavailable. Click the button below to learn about our other subscription offers.

Learn More »