What are tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis?
They are all very serious diseases for children, adolescents and adults. Tetanus (Lockjaw): Bacteria in soil enter through a cut, creating an infection. Sufferers experiences painful tightening of muscles and may be unable to open mouth and swallow. Diphtheria: Highly contagious infection of respiratory tract. Leads to weakness, sore throat, swollen glands. Severe cases can affect the heart. Pertussis (Whooping Cough): Highly contagious infection of respiratory tract. Causes excessive coughing fits. Infants are most at risk for life-threatening complications.
What about the vaccines?
The names DTaP and Tdap are acronyms created from initials of the diseases that they protect against: tetanus (T), diphtheria (D/d) and pertussis (P/p) or whooping cough. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP. The adult and adolescent booster vaccine is called Tdap. Both vaccinate against all 3 conditions.
Who should get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends:
Birth through 6 years: DTaP at 2, 3, and 6 months, again at 15-18 months, and between 4 and 6 years. Total of 5 doses.
7 through 10 years: If not fully vaccinated against pertussis, should receive a single dose of Tdap OR, in some cases, should be vaccinated according to the catch-up schedule with Tdap as the preferred first dose.
11 through 18 years: Tdap as a single dose preferably between 11 and 12 years. If not fully vaccinated, check catch-up schedule. Adolescents 13-18 who missed getting Tdap at 11-12, administer at soonest opportunity.
19 years and older: Anyone who did not receive a dose of Tdap should get one as soon as possible.
Pregnant Women: Should get a dose of Tdap preferably at 27 through 36 weeks gestation.
Who should NOT get vaccinated or should wait?
Talk to your doctor if you:
- Had a life-threatening allergic reaction, or severe pain or swelling after a dose of any tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis containing vaccine, or any part of this vaccine
- Have epilepsy or another nervous system problem
- Ever had Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS)
- Are experiencing moderate-to-severe illness
What about side effects?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. Such reactions, however, are very rare. Mild side effects could include soreness, redness, and possibly swelling at the site of the vaccination, as well as mild fever, headache and fatigue.