Covid-19 and Immunity in Aging Populations — A New Research Agenda

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Despite billions of dollars poured into research and development efforts to control the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responses are delayed by our limited understanding of how to generate effective immunity, particularly in the elderly. If we can delineate principles of effective immunity in the elderly, we might also be able to develop new strategies for broader disease prevention and control in older populations.

Covid-19 has highlighted the vulnerability of aging populations to emerging diseases. This susceptibility to disease and death is also a major challenge for the development of vaccines and immunotherapeutic agents. Numerous studies have shown that vaccine efficacy decreases significantly with age, thought to be driven by the progressive age-related decline of innate and adaptive immune responses. Advances in bioinformatics, causal inference, and artificial intelligence (AI) enable analyses of large-scale data sets that can help in determining the key elements of effective human immunity, as well as enhance future vaccines and immunotherapies.

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