The Tdap vaccine is used to protect against, tetanus
(lockjaw), diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).
According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), these diseases are caused by bacteria. The
number of cases of tetanus and diphtheria has dropped by about 99 percent and
pertussis by about 80 percent since the Tdap vaccine started to be administered.
There are actually four separate vaccines used to protect
against these diseases:
The names of the vaccines show what they contain. Capital
letters mean there is a full dose of the vaccine for that illness. Lower case
letters mean there is a reduced dose. Therefore Tdap contains a full dose of
tetanus toxoid vaccine. However, it only contains a reduced dose of diphtheria
toxoid and pertussis vaccines.
DTap and DT are used for children under 7. Tdap and TD are
used for older children and adults.
The type of Tdap vaccine you will receive
depends on your age.
DTaP and DT
DTaP protects against all three diseases. The CDC recommends
that all children receive five doses of this vaccine. These are administered at
the ages of:
- 15 to
- 4 to 6
DTaP is not licensed for older children, adolescents, or
adults. DT is used as a substitute when children can’t handle pertussis
Tdap is the primary vaccine used for adolescents and adults.
All adolescents should get this vaccine – ideally at age 11 or 12. Adults
should also get this vaccine if they have never received it.
This vaccine may also be given to children between the ages of 7 and 10 who are not
completely immunized against pertussis.
The Td vaccine is used as a booster. Adults should get this
vaccine every 10 years.
Pregnant women who have never been vaccinated with Tdap
should be vaccinated after 20 weeks gestation. Pertussis can pose a severe risk
for infants. Adults who will be around young infants should also get a Tdap
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
Most people should be getting tetanus vaccines or boosters
approximately every 10 years. However, there are certain people who should not
get these vaccines. These include:
who had severe allergic reaction to past doses of Tdap, DTaP, DT, or Td
who are allergic to vaccine components
who had a coma or seizures within 7 days of receiving DTP or DTaP vaccines
who is currently
moderately to severely ill
There are also additional factors that affect the risk of
getting Tdap. Discuss the risks of vaccination with your doctor if you:
epilepsy or other nervous system diseases
severe swelling from past doses of DTP, DTaP, DT, Td, or Tdap
had Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)
Potential Side Effects
Severe side effects from the Tdap and Td vaccines are
uncommon. However, these vaccines do hold some risk. Possible side effects
or swelling where the shot was given
In very rare cases these vaccines can cause fainting or
seizures. Another rare side effect is severe swelling in the arm. This can
limit movement. Severe allergic reactions are possible but extremely rare.