Health Information

Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis Vaccine

The more you know about your health, the better prepared you are to make informed healthcare decisions. Our health library gives you the information you need to take charge of your health.

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 make it difficult for infants to eat, drink, and breathe; also known as whooping cough

What Is the Tdap Vaccine?

The Tdap vaccine contains diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, and acellular (small, purified pieces) pertussis germ.

It is given to children ≥ 7 years old, adolescents, and 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

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 the 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

Catch-Up Schedule

If you or your child has 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
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach ache

Uncommon symptoms include:

  • Fever over 102ºF
  • 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 seven 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.

Caring properly for wounds, including promptly cleaning them and seeing a doctor for medical care, can 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.

Revision Information

  • WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

  • Immunization

    American Academy of Pediatrics

    http://www.cispimmunize.org

  • National Immunization Program

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FDA approval of expanded age indication for a tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(37):1279-1280.

  • Vaccinations for adults. Immunization Action Coalition website. Available at: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4030.pdf . Accessed October 8, 2013.

  • Fisman DN, Tang P, Hauck T, Richardson S, Drews SJ, Low DE, Jamieson F. Pertussis resurgence in Toronto, Canada: a population-based study including test-incidence feedback modeling. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:694.

  • Friedrich MJ. Research aims to boost pertussis control. JAMA. 2011;306(1):27-29.

  • Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Program website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/default.htm . Updated September 23, 2013. Accessed October 8, 2013.

  • Tdap vaccine: what you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/tdap.pdf . Published May 9, 2013. Accessed October 8, 2013.

  • 1/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5701a8.htm . Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.

  • 10/30/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Prymula R, Siegrist C, Chlibek R, et al. Effect of prophylactic paracetamol administration at time of vaccination on febrile reactions and antibody responses in children: two open-label, randomised controlled trials. Lancet . 2009;374(9698):1339.

  • 1/24/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis (tdap) vaccine from the advisory committee on immunization practices, 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(1):13-15.

  • 11/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) in pregnant women and persons who have or anticipate having close contact with an infant aged <12 months—Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60:1424-1426.

  • 2/10/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Bridges C, Coyne-Beasley T. Advistory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedules for adults aged 19 years or older: United States, 2014. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(3):190-197.

  • 4/1/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Bridges CB, Coyne-Beasley T, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years or older—United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014. 63(7):110-112.