Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are
serious diseases caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis are
spread from person to person. Tetanus enters the body through cuts or
DIPHTHERIA causes a thick covering
in the back of the throat.
TETANUS (Lockjaw) causes painful
tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body.
PERTUSSIS (Whooping Cough) causes
coughing spells so bad that it is hard for infants to eat, drink, or breathe.
These spells can last for weeks.
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine
(DTaP) can help prevent these diseases. Most children who are
vaccinated with DTaP will be protected throughout childhood. Many more children
would get these diseases if we stopped vaccinating.
DTaP is a safer version of an older vaccine
called DTP. DTP is no longer used in the United States.
2. Who should get DTaP vaccine and when?
Children should get 5
doses of DTaP vaccine, one dose at each of the following
✓ 2 months
✓ 4 months
✓ 6 months
✓ 15 to 18 months
✓ 4 to 6 years
DTaP may be given at the same time as other
3. Some children should not get DTaP vaccine or should wait
Children with minor illnesses, such as a
cold, may be vaccinated. But children who are moderately or severely ill
should usually wait until they recover before getting DTaP vaccine.
Any child who had a life-threatening
allergic reaction after a dose of DTaP should not get another dose.
Talk with your doctor if your child:
- had a seizure or collapsed
after a dose of DTaP
- cried non-stop for 3 hours or
more after a dose of DTaP
- had a fever over 105 degrees
Fahrenheit after a dose of DTaP.
Ask your health care provider for more
information. Some of these children should not get another dose of pertussis,
but may get a vaccine without pertussis, called DT.
4. Older children and adults
DTaP should not be given to anyone 7 years of
age or older because pertussis vaccine is only licensed for children under
But older people still need protection. A
vaccine called Tdap is similar to DTaP. A single dose of Tdap is
recommended for people 11 through 64 years of age. Another vaccine, called
Td, protects against tetanus and diphtheria, but not pertussis.
It is recommended every 10 years. There are separate Vaccine Information
Statements for these vaccines.
5. What are the risks from DTaP vaccine?
Getting diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis disease
is much riskier than getting DTaP vaccine.
However, a vaccine, like any medicine, is
capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk
of DTaP vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Mild Problems (Common)
Fever (up to about 1 child in 4)
Redness or swelling where the shot
was given (up to about 1 child in 4)
Soreness or tenderness where the
shot was given (up to about 1 child in 4)
These problems occur more often after the
4th and 5th doses of the DTaP series than after earlier doses.
Sometimes the 4th or 5th dose of DTaP
vaccine is followed by swelling of the entire arm or leg in which the shot
was given, for 1 to 7 days (up to about 1 child in 30).
Other mild problems include:
Fussiness (up to about 1 child
Tiredness or poor appetite (up
to about 1 child in 10)
Vomiting (up to about 1 child in
These problems generally occur 1 to 3
days after the shot.
Moderate Problems (Uncommon)
Seizure (jerking or staring) (about
1 child out of 14,000)
Non-stop crying, for 3 hours or more
(up to about 1 child out of 1,000)
High fever, over 105 degrees
Fahrenheit (about 1 child out of 16,000)
Severe Problems (Very Rare)
These are so rare it is hard to tell if they
are caused by the vaccine.
Controlling fever is especially important for
children who have had seizures, for any reason. It is also important if
another family member has had seizures.
You can reduce fever and pain by giving your
child an aspirin-free pain reliever when the shot is given, and for the next
24 hours, following the package instructions.
6. What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?
What should I look for?
Any unusual conditions, such as a serious
allergic reaction, high fever or unusual behavior. Serious allergic
reactions are extremely rare with any vaccine. If one were to occur, it
would most likely be within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot.
Signs can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives,
paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness. If a high fever or
seizure were to occur, it would usually be within a week after the shot.
What should I do?
Call a doctor or get
the person to a doctor right away.
Tell your doctor what
happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination
Ask your doctor, nurse,
or health department to file a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting
System (VAERS) form.
7. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
In the rare event that you or your child has a
serious reaction to a vaccine, a federal program has been created to help you
pay for the care of those who have been harmed.
For details about the National Vaccine Injury
Compensation Program, call 1- 800-338-2382 or visit the
program's website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation.
8. How can I learn more?
Ask your health care provider. They can
give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of
Call your local or state health
department's immunization program.
Contact the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC):
U.S. Department of Health & Human
Centers for Disease Control and
Vaccine Information Statement
May 17, 2007
42 U.S.C. section 300aa-26