Vaccines to Prevent Tetanus: DTaP or DT and Td or Tdap


Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria. When the bacteria enter the body, they produce a toxin or poison which causes painful muscle contractions.

December 14, 2017

It is important that children, especially infants and young children, receive recommended immunizations on time. Vaccines also protect teenagers and adults to keep them healthy throughout their lives.
Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria. When the bacteria enter the body, they produce a toxin or poison which causes painful muscle contractions. Tetanus infection mainly affects the neck and abdomen. Tetanus is also called lockjaw as it locks the neck and jaw muscles of the infected person, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow. It can also cause breathing problems, severe muscle spasms, seizures, and paralysis. Complete recovery can take months. Tetanus can be fatal if left untreated.
It does not spread from person-to-person. The bacteria are usually found in soil, dust, and manure and enter the body when the skin breaks ,such as cuts or puncture wounds.
Early symptoms of tetanus are lockjaw, stiffness in the neck and abdomen, and difficulty swallowing. Over time this can lead to severe muscle spasms, generalized tonic seizure-like activity, severe autonomic nervous system disorders.

Types of Tetanus Vaccine:

There are four types of tetanus vaccine available. These are:
  • DTaP: Pediatric diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine
  • DT: Pediatric diphtheria and tetanus vaccine
  • Td: Older children and adults tetanus and diphtheria vaccine
  • Tdap: Older children and adults tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine

Who gets Tetanus?

Everyone needs protection from tetanus. The DTaP vaccine can help prevent tetanus in young children. DTaP shots are recommended for healthy babies at ages of 2, 4, 6 and 15 through 18 months and 4 through 6 years. For children of age 4 through 6 years old, a DTaP booster is recommended.
Over time immunity to tetanus decreases. Therefore older children need to get the Tdap vaccine which is a booster shot containing a full concentration of tetanus and lower concentrations of diphtheria and pertussis. The Tdap vaccine is recommended for children aged 11 through 18 year. Tdap is preferably given at the age of 11 or 12 years.
Adults also need to get a booster shot every 10 years to stay protected. For adults who have not gotten Tdap yet, should get Tdap immediately instead of their next regular tetanus booster. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark.

DTaP or DT:

  • Children should get five doses of DTaP vaccine, one dose at each at the age of 2, 4, 6 and 15 through 18 months and 4 through 6 years.
  • DT does not contain pertussis, and is used as a substitute for DTaP for children who cannot tolerate pertussis vaccine.
  • DTaP vaccine may be given at the same visit as other vaccines.
  • DTaP is not licensed for anyone over the age of six. Children older than six, adolescents, and adults may get a similar vaccine, Tdap or Td.

Td or Tdap:

  • Children older than six, adolescents, and adults may get this vaccine as they can not get DTaP or DT.
  • Td is a tetanus and diphtheria vaccine given to preteens, teens, and adults as a booster shot every 10 years, or after an exposure to tetanus under some circumstances.
  • Tdap is a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine given to teens and adults. It can be given after exposure to tetanus under some circumstances in place of one of the Td (tetanus and diphtheria vaccine) shots.
  • Tdap is especially important for pregnant women. Pregnant women should receive a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy. The shot is recommended during the 27th through 36th week of pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. This helps to maximize the amount of protective antibodies passed to the baby. These antibodies help protect newborns right after birth and until babies are old enough to get their own DTaP vaccine at two months of age. However, the vaccine can be safely given at any time during pregnancy if required.
  • New mothers who have never gotten Tdap should get a dose as soon as possible after delivery.
  • Teens 11 through 18 years old should receive a single dose of Tdap. Adults 19 years or older who did not receive Tdap as a teen should also receive a single dose of Tdap.
  • Tdap can be given no matter when Td was last received.

Problems that could happen after any vaccine:

  • Sometimes people faint after vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting. If you feel dizzy, have vision changes or ringing in the ears, speak to your doctor.
  • In some cases severe pain in the shoulder and difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given could happen.
  • A severe allergic reaction would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
  • There is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death. The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. You can get all the information from Vaccine Safety site.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes , call 9-1-1 or find the nearest hospital.
The reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through the VAERS website or by calling 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
If you are injured by a vaccine, you can file a claim in  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website to get the compensation.

Learn more about Vaccine:

Your doctor can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
You can call your local or state health department or can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by:
        Calling 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
        Visiting  CDC vaccines website