What are tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis?
Tetanus, or lockjaw, is a dangerous nerve ailment caused by the toxin of a common bacterium often found in soil. This bacterium can also exist in environments as diverse as animal excrement, house dust, and operating rooms. It enters the body through cuts, scratches or wounds.
Diphtheria is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing. It is a respiratory disease that typically causes a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness. It can also cause paralysis, heart failure, and death.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious illness spread by contact with droplets coughed out by someone with the disease, or by contact with recently contaminated hard surfaces upon which the droplets have landed. Early symptoms include runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing. After this stage, the most common symptom is intense bouts of coughing in which the gasping person makes a "whoop" sound when inhaling between coughs.
What are the Tdap and Td (Tetanus Booster) vaccines?
The Tdap vaccine can protect adolescents and adults against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).
Td (Tetanus Booster) vaccine can protect against tetanus and diphtheria, and has been used for many years as booster doses for adolescents and adults. A related vaccine is DTaP, which is routinely administered as five doses spread between infancy and children 4 - 6 years of age, to protect against the same three diseases.
Who should get the Tdap and Td (Tetanus Booster) vaccines?
Adolescents 11 -18 years of age should get one booster dose of Tdap.
- A dose of Tdap is recommended for adolescents who got DTaP or DTP as children but have not yet gotten a dose of Td. The preferred age is 11-12.
- Adolescents who have already gotten a booster dose of Td are encouraged to get a dose of Tdap as well, for protection against pertussis.
- Adolescents who did not get all their scheduled doses of DTaP or DTP as children should complete the series using a combination of Td and Tdap.
All adults aged 19 and older should get a booster dose of Td every 10 years. Tdap should be substituted for Td (Tetanus Booster) for the next dose among people with the following characteristics:
- All adults who have never gotten Tdap
- All adults who expect to have close contact with an infant younger than 12 months of age
- Healthcare workers who have direct contact in hospitals or clinics
Pregnant women should get Tdap during the 27th to 36th week of each pregnancy. New mothers who have never gotten Tdap should get a dose as soon as possible after delivery.
Anyone who gets a severe cut or burn might need a dose of Td or Tdap to prevent tetanus infection. Tdap may be used for people who have never had a dose. But Td should be used if Tdap is not available, or for:
- Anyone who has already had a dose of Tdap
- Children 7-9 years of age
Who should not get the Tdap vaccine?
- Anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of DTP, DTaP, DT, Td, or Tdap, or to any component of any of these vaccines should not get Td or Tdap.
- Anyone who had a coma, or long or multiple seizures within 7 days after a dose of DTP or DTaP should not get Tdap, unless a cause other than the vaccine was found (these patients can get Td)
- Anyone who is moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting the Tdap or Td vaccine.
- Talk to your healthcare provider if the person getting either vaccine has had any of the following:
- Epilepsy or another nervous system problem
- Severe swelling or severe pain after a previous dose of DTP, DTaP, DT, Td, or Tdap vaccine, or
- Has had Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS).
- Tell your healthcare provider if the person getting the vaccine has any severe allergies.
What are the side effects of the Tdap and Td (Tetanus Booster) vaccines?
- Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
Severe problems (rare):
- Deep, aching pain and loss of muscle strength in the upper arm
- Serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale skin
- Fast heartbeat
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.
The Tdap and Td vaccines are available at:
Healthcare Clinic — Tdap for patients aged 10+ / Td for patients aged 7+1
At Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.
Walk in or schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.
Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at cdc.gov/vaccines, for more vaccine information.
Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2007.
Vaccine Information Statement: Td or Tdap (Tetanus-Diphtheria or Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis) Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). January 24, 2012. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-td-tdap.pdf. Accessed February 2013.
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