News Dedicated to a Healthy Workplace June/July 2012
The Facts About Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis Vaccines

Many people are confused by the vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Here are the facts to help you determine which vaccine you need. 

The Td vaccine has been used for many years. It protects against tetanus and diphtheria. The Tdap vaccine was developed in 2005 for adolescents and adults which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Whooping Cough). 

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis are all caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person. Tetanus enters the body through cuts, scratches, or wounds. 

The United States averaged more than 1,300 cases of tetanus and 175,000 cases of diphtheria each year before vaccines. Since vaccines have been available, tetanus cases have fallen by over 96% and diphtheria cases by over 99.9%. 

Before 2005, only children younger than 7 years of age could get pertussis vaccine. In 2004 there were more than 8,000 cases of pertussis in the U.S among adolescents and more than 7,000 cases among adults. 

The Tdap can be used in three ways:

     1) as catch-up for people who did not get all their doses
          of DTap or DTP when they were children
     2) as a booster every 10 years 
     3) for protection against tetanus infection after a wound 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • Infants and children should receive 5 doses of the DTaP vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months, at 15 through 18 months, and at 4 through 6 years. All 5 doses are needed for maximum protection. Children 7-10 years of age who are not fully vaccinated with DTaP should receive a dose of Tdap instead of waiting for the 11-12 year old check up.
  • Adolescents should receive the Tdap vaccine at their regular check-up at age 11 or 12. If teenagers (13 through 18 years) missed getting the Tdap vaccine, parents should ask the doctor about getting it for them now.
  • Adults who are 19 through 64 years old should get a 1-time dose of Tdap in place of the Td booster they’re recommended to receive every 10 years. No need to wait until you are due for your Td booster—the dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark since the last Td booster. It's a good idea for adults to talk to a healthcare provider about what's best for their specific situation.
  • Pregnant women should ideally receive Tdap before pregnancy. Otherwise, it is recommended that Tdap be given after delivery, before leaving the hospital or birthing center. If a pregnant woman is at increased risk for getting whooping cough, such as during a community outbreak, her doctor may consider giving Tdap during pregnancy. Although pregnancy is not a contraindication for receiving Tdap, a pregnant woman and her doctor should discuss the risks and benefits before choosing to receive Tdap during pregnancy.
  • Adults 65 years and older who have not previously received a dose of Tdap and have close contact with infants should receive one dose of Tdap. Other adults in this age group who have not previously received a dose of Tdap and will not have close contact with infants may receive a dose of Tdap. Receiving Tdap may be especially important during a community outbreak and/or if caring for an infant.

Call your doctor to see what is best for you and your family. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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