Why get vaccinated?
Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis can be very serious diseases, even for adolescents and adults. Tdap vaccine can protect us from these diseases. And, Tdap vaccine given to pregnant women can protect newborn babies against pertussis.
TETANUS (Lockjaw) is rare in the United States today. It causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness, usually all over the body. It can lead to tightening of muscles in the head and neck so you can’t open your mouth, swallow, or sometimes even breathe. Tetanus kills about 1 out of 10 people who are infected after receiving the best medical care.
DIPHTHERIA is also rate in the United States today. It can cause a thick coating to form in the back of the throat. It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and death.
PERTUSSIS (Whooping Cough) causes severe coughing spells, which can cause difficulty breathing, vomiting and disturbed sleep. It can also lead to weight loss, incontinence, and rib fractures. Up to 2 in 100 adolescents and 5 in 100 adults with pertussis are hospitalized or have complications, which could include pneumonia or death.
These diseases are caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Tetanus enters the body through cuts, scratches, or wounds.
Before vaccines, the United States saw as many as 200,000 cases a year of diphtheria and pertussis, and hundreds of cases of tetanus. Since vaccination began, tetanus and diphtheria have dropped by about 99% and pertussis by about 80%.
Tdap vaccine can protect adolescents and adults from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. One dose of Tdap is routinely given at age 11 or 12. People who did not get
Tdap at that age should get it as soon as possible.
Tdap is especially important for health care professionals and anyone having close contact with a baby younger than 12 months. Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, to protect the newborn from pertussis. Infants are most at risk for severe, life-threatening complications from pertussis.
Another vaccine, called Td, protects from tetanus and diphtheria, but not pertussis. A Td booster should be given every 10 years. Tdap may be given as one of these boosters if you have not already gotten a dose. Tdap may also be given after a severe cut or burn to prevent tetanus infection.
Your doctor can give you more information. Tdap may safely be given at the same time as other vaccines.
Some people should not get this vaccine
- A person who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of any tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis containing vaccine, OR if you have a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, you should not get Tdap. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
- Anyone who had a coma, or long or multiple seizures within 7 days after a childhood dose of DTP or DTaP, you should not get Tdap, unless a cause other than the
vaccine was found. You can still get Td.
- Talk to your doctor if you:
- Have seizures or another nervous system problem,
- Had severe pain or swelling after any vaccine
containing diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis,
- Ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS),
- Aren’t feeling well on the day the shot is scheduled.
Risks of a vaccine reaction
With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own. Serious reactions are also possible but are rare.
Most people who get Tdap vaccine do not have any problems with it.
Mild Problems following Tdap
(Did not interfere with activities)
- Pain where the shot was given (about 3 in 4 adolescents or 2 in 3 adults)
- Redness or swelling where the shot was given (about 1 person in 5)
- Mild fever of at least 100.4°F (up to about 1 in 25 adolescents or 1 in 100 adults)
- Headache (about 3 or 4 people in 10)
- Tiredness (about 1 person in 3 or 4)
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache (up to 1 in 4 adolescents or 1 in 10 adults
- Chills, body aches, sore joints, rash, swollen glands (uncommon)
- Body aches (about 1 person in 3 or 4)
Rash, swollen glands (uncommon)
Moderate Problems following Tdap
(Interfered with activities, but did not require medical attention)
- Pain where the shot was given (about 1 in 5 adolescents or 1 in 100 adults)
- Redness or swelling where the shot was given (up to about 1 in 16 adolescents or 1 in 25 adults)
- Fever over 102°F (about 1 in 100 adolescents or 1 in 250 adults)
- Headache (about 3 in 20 adolescents or 1 in 10 adults)
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache (up to 1 or 3 people in 100)
- Swelling of the entire arm where the shot was given (up to about 3 in 100).
Severe Problems following Tdap
(Unable to perform usual activities; required medical attention)
Swelling, severe pain, bleeding and redness in the arm where the shot was given (rare).
Problems that could happen after any vaccine:
- People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting, and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy, or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
- Some people get severe pain in the shoulder and have difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given. This happens very rarely.
- Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at fewer than 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit the
Vaccine Safety site.
What if there is a serious reaction?
What should I look for?
- Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes.
- 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.
What should I do?
- If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or get the person to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.
- Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the “Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System” (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do
it yourself through the VAERS web site at
www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website at
How can I learn more?
- Ask your doctor. He or she can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
- Call your local or state health department.
- Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):