Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are each caused by a bacterium.
The Tdap and Td vaccines are made from dead (inactivated) bacteria. So the vaccines will not make a person sick from the diseases they are protecting against. After getting either vaccine, the body learns to attack the bacteria if a person is exposed to them. As a result, the person is very unlikely to get sick with any of the diseases.
Because immunity to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis wears off, Tdap and Td are used mainly as booster vaccines.
NOTE: Tdap is not the same as the vaccine DTaP. Both vaccines protect against the same diseases, but are given at different ages.
WHO SHOULD GET THIS VACCINE
Children 7 through 10 years old, who did not get any or all five DTaP vaccine shots (doses) between ages 2 through 6, need one shot of Tdap. If additional shots are needed, Td vaccine is given.
Children 11 through 12 years old need one shot of Tdap booster if they received all 5 DTaP shots when younger. The Td booster is then given every 10 years.
All adults age 19 or older need a booster shot of Td every 10 years.
All adults, especially those who are age 65 or older who have never had Tdap should get one shot as their next booster.
Pregnant women need one shot of Tdap during each pregnancy. This is to protect the mother from getting the infections, especially pertussis, and spreading the germs to their newborn.
Children and adults who have a severe cut or burn may need Td or Tdap to protect against tetanus infection.
WHO SHOULD NOT GET THE VACCINES
Persons who received a dose of any vaccine that has tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis in it and developed an allergy from the vaccine.
Persons who went into a coma or developed seizures within 1 week of getting a dose of DTaP or the older vaccine, called DTP, should not receive Tdap. These persons can receive Td.
Persons who have nervous system problems, such as epilepsy, should ask their health care provider about receiving any diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccine.
Persons who have Guillain-Barré syndrome should ask their health care provider about receiving any diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccine.
Persons who are ill with something more severe than a cold or have a fever should reschedule their vaccination until after they are recovered.
RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS
Common side effects of Tdap and Td include pain and swelling at the injection site and mild fever.
Severe side effects include allergic reaction to parts of the vaccine.
There is no proof that Tdap or Td is linked to the development of autism.
No vaccine works all of the time. It is still possible, though unlikely, to get any of the infections even after receiving all doses (shots) of Tdap or Td.
CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF:
You are not sure if a person should get the Tdap or Td vaccine
Serious symptoms develop after receiving either vaccine
You have questions or concerns about either vaccine
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. General recommendations on immunization: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 2011;60 (No. RR-2):1-64.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine safety and adverse events. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/safety/default.htm. Accessed April 19, 2013.
DeStefano F, Price CS, Weintraub ES. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. J Pediatr. 2013;DOI10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.02.001.
Institute of Medicine. Immunization Safety Review Committee. Immunization safety review: vaccines and autism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.