Vaccine Recommendations and Safety Information: Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis

Getting a vaccine is the best way to prevent getting tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Since 2005, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended a Tdap vaccine booster dose for all adolescents aged 11 through 18 years (preferred at 11 through 12 years) and for those adults aged 19 through 64 years who have not yet received a dose. In February 2012, ACIP recommended Tdap for all adults aged 65 years and older.

Tdap needs to be given only once:

  • Td every 10 years.
  • Substitute Tdap for Td if Tdap never given

In wound management care, if a tetanus booster is indicated, Tdap is preferred over Td in adults aged 19 years and older who have not received Tdap previously.

Children get a vaccine called DTaP that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. This vaccine is given in a series of five shots beginning at age 2 months.

Pregnant Women and Tdap Vaccination

All pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine preferably between 27 weeks and 36 weeks of gestation. The Tdap vaccine is an effective and safe way to protect moms and their baby from serious illness and complications of pertussis (whooping cough). The Tdap vaccine should be administered during each pregnancy.

Experts recommend that Tdap be administered during the third trimester of pregnancy (ideally between 27 weeks and 36 weeks of gestation) to maximize protection of the newborn from whooping cough. The newborn protection occurs because the protective antibodies the mom makes after being vaccinated are transferred to the fetus and protect the newborn until he or she begins to receive the vaccines against pertussis (at 2 months of age). For women not previously vaccinated with Tdap, if Tdap was not administered during pregnancy, it should be administered immediately postpartum.
The Tdap vaccine can safely be given to breastfeeding mothers if they have not been previously vaccinated with Tdap.

There are two vaccines to prevent pertussis approved for use in the United States: Boostrix and Adacel. Either Tdap vaccine can be taken at any time since the last tetanus/diphtheria (Td) booster that many people get every 10 years.

Tdap Vaccination Safety

No serious adverse events have been attributed to Tdap. The most common adverse event is a local reaction, though low-grade fever and nonspecific systemic events are possible. Individuals should not receive Tdap if they have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component or following a prior dose of vaccine, or if they have experienced encephalopathy not due to another identifiable cause occurring within 7 days after vaccination.

Tdap safety studies among VAERS reports have found no safety concerns for the general population, for pregnant women or for adults over age 65.  In the VSD, studies have found no association between Tdap vaccination and Guillain-Barre Syndrome or other neurologic disorders.  Other studies have found that there is no increased risk for other types of health problems, such as allergies, blood disorders, and chronic illnesses.

Although injection site reactions are not uncommon, studies have found a low rate of severe reactions.  These local reactions are unusual even when the vaccine is given at the same time as meningococcal conjugate vaccine, or when a person receives several doses of Tdap vaccine over a short time period.




Updated 11/16/15

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