Vaccine Against Tetanus, DTaP, Tdap, Td, DT

Tetanus Vaccine

Tetanus (lockjaw) is a disease that is preventable with the DTaP tetanus vaccine for children, Tdap tetanus vaccine for teenagers and adults, and Td tetanus booster shots for adults every 10 years.

What is the tetanus vaccine?

The first tetanus toxoid (inactivated toxin) was created in 1924. It was successfully used during World War II to prevent tetanus infections in the military. In the mid-1940s, tetanus vaccines were combined with diphtheria and pertussis toxoids to make a combination DTP vaccine.

DTP is no longer used in the U.S. because it was a whole-cell pertussis vaccine and it was associated with more side effects than the acellular pertussis vaccine, DTaP.

There are now 4 types of tetanus vaccines — DTaP, DT, Td, and Tdap — and they are all combined with vaccines against other diseases. The “D” stands for diphtheria (full-strength “D” or low-dose “d”), the “T” stands for tetanus, and the “aP” stands for acellular pertussis.

The FDA has licensed 11 tetanus vaccines in the United States:

Who gets the tetanus vaccine?

Tetanus vaccination is recommended for all babies, children, teens, and adults. DTaP and DT are given to children under 7 years old, while Tdap and Td are given to older children, teenagers, and adults.

One dose of Tdap is also recommended for pregnant women during the 3rd trimester of every pregnancy to help protect the baby from pertussis (whooping cough) in the first few months of the baby’s life.

Who should NOT get the vaccine?

Tetanus vaccines should NOT be given to certain people. Before receiving a tetanus vaccine, ask your doctor for more information if you or your child has:

  • Experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), severe pain or swelling, fever over 105ºF, or cried non-stop for 3 hours or more after a previous dose of the vaccine
  • Severe allergy to any component or ingredient in the vaccine
  • Seizures
  • Brain or nervous system disease
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) or severe muscle weakness in 6 weeks following a vaccine
  • Moderate or severe illness (wait until you feel better)

What is the immunization schedule for tetanus?

Tetanus vaccines are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as part of a child’s routine immunization series, but teenagers and adults also need routine booster shots against tetanus.

Children under 7 years old receive five doses of DTaP (unless they can’t receive pertussis, in which case they receive DT) at the ages of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years old.

Teenagers and adults receive one dose of the Tdap booster shot, typically around age 11 or 12 years old. Tdap is also recommended for pregnant women.

Every 10 years afterward, adults receive one dose of Td booster shot.

What are common side effects of tetanus vaccines?

  • Mild fever
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Generally feeling sick (malaise)
  • Light-headedness
  • Headache
  • Injection-site reactions (pain, itching, swelling, tenderness, lump, or redness where the shot was given)

To learn more about the side effects associated with the tetanus vaccine, please visit this page: Tetanus Vaccine Side Effects.

Can the tetanus vaccines cause tetanus?

No. Tetanus vaccines are “inactivated” vaccines. They do not contain live bacteria and cannot replicate themselves or cause infections with tetanus, which is why multiple doses are necessary to produce immunity. Tetanus vaccines are made by chemically treating the tetanus toxins to render them non-toxic, yet still capable of causing an immune response in the person who is vaccinated.

What are severe side effects of tetanus vaccines?

  • Allergic reaction
  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Arthralgia
  • Arthus-type hypersensitivity reactions
  • Brachial neuritis
  • Brachial plexus neuropathies
  • Cochlear lesion
  • Death
  • Encephalopathy
  • Fever
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Low blood pressure
  • Neurological complications
  • Paralysis of the radial nerve
  • Paralysis of the recurrent nerve
  • Paresis
  • Severe pain, swelling, bleeding, or redness in the injected arm
  • Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA)

Where can I get more information?

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