Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis Vaccine
What Does This Vaccine Help Prevent?
This vaccine helps prevent:
- Diphtheria—which causes a sore throat with thick covering in the back of the throat
- Tetanus—which causes painful muscle tightening all over the body; also known as lockjaw
- Pertussis—which causes bad coughing spells that may occur at any age, but when it occurs in infants and young children, may make eating, drinking and breathing difficult; also known as whooping cough
What Is the Tdap Vaccine?
The Tdap vaccine contains diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, and small pieces of inactive pertussis bacteria.
It is given to children 7 years and older and to adults to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis infections.
The vaccine is given as an injection, usually into the arm or thigh.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
Tdap is routinely recommended for children aged 11 years or older, regardless of whether or not they completed the DTaP series. Tdap can also be given to:
- Children aged 7-10 years who have not been fully vaccinated
- Children (aged 11 years and older) and adults who did not get Tdap should receive the vaccine followed by a tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster every 10 years
- Adults who have never received Tdap
- Pregnant women (or adolescents) after 27-36 weeks gestation, for each pregnancy, even if they have received Tdap in the past
If you or your child have not been fully vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, talk to the doctor.
What Are the Risks Associated With the Pertussis Vaccine?
Most people tolerate the vaccines without any trouble. The most common side effects are:
- Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- Mild fever
- Abdominal pain
Uncommon symptoms include:
- Fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius)
- Severe gastrointestinal problems
- Severe headache
Acetaminophen is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. In infants, the medication may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. However, in children at risk for seizures, a fever-lowering medication may be important to take. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with your doctor.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
Most people should receive their vaccinations on schedule. However, individuals in whom the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits include people who:
- Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to Tdap
- Have had a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine to be given
- Have gone into a coma or have had seizures within 7 days after a dose of Tdap
Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you have:
- Epilepsy or other nervous system problems
- Severe swelling or severe pain after a previous dose of any component of the vaccination to be given
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Moderate or severe illness—wait until you recover to get the vaccine
What Other Ways Can Tetanus, Diphtheria, or Pertussis Be Prevented?
The best way to prevent diphtheria is to get vaccinated.
Promptly clean all wounds and follow up with your doctor for medical care to prevent a tetanus infection.
You can help prevent pertussis by keeping infants and other people at high risk away from infected people.
What Happens in the Event of a Pertussis Outbreak?
In the event of a pertussis outbreak, all people who may have been exposed should be brought up to date with the vaccination. It is important to protect infants by isolating those who have the infection. Diagnosing the disease as quickly as possible can help control future outbreaks.
- Marcie Sidman, MD
- Reviewed: 06/2016
- Updated: 08/27/2014
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