TDap facts

How effective is Tdap vaccine?
The vaccine protects:

  • more than 95 of 100 people against tetanus,
  • about 85 of 100 people against diphtheria and pertussis.

Immunizing teens against pertussis may reduce
community outbreaks and the spread of pertussis to
babies who are too young to be protected by

Are booster doses required?
It is not known how long the Tdap vaccine will provide protection against pertussis. A booster dose (of Td only) is recommended for adults every 10 years. The booster dose may be needed sooner if an adult gets a dirty wound or cut.
Who should receive the Tdap vaccine?
Immunization against tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis is recommended for:

  • children over six years of age and adults whohave not completed their basic immunization series
  • children 14 to 16 years of age.

Who should not receive the Tdap Vaccine?
A doctor or public health nurse may decide not to give the vaccine to someone who:

  • has a high fever or infection worse than a cold (the vaccine can be given later)
  • has had a severe allergic reaction* to a previous dose of other vaccines
  • has a severe allergy to substances in the vaccine (e.g., aluminum phosphate,2-phenoxyethanol)
  • is in the first three months of pregnancy

* All severe allergies should be reported to the doctor or public health nurse before any shots are given.
How is the vaccine given?
The vaccine is given in a needle in the muscle of the upper arm.

Are there any side effects?
The Tdap vaccine is very safe. But as with any medicine, side effects sometimes occur. Minor side effects that usually disappear in two to
three days include:

  • soreness, redness and swelling where the injection is given
  • fever less than 39°C (102.5°F)
  • headache
  • not feeling well
  • feeling tired.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol® or Temprs®) can be given for fever. Never give acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or aspirin) to children. A cold damp cloth may help ease minor pain where the needle was given. Less common/rare side effects include:

  • severe swelling and pain where the needle is given. (This is unusual and happens whenvaccines containing tetanus and diphtheria are given too often.)
  • a small, painless lump where the needle was given. (This usually disappears within two months)
  • serum sickness (a rare illness that affects a number of organs in your body for a shorttime)
  • tingling, numbness or weakness in the arm and chest (less than one in 100,000immunizations)
  • severe allergic reactions such as:
    • hives
    • wheezing
    • shortness of breath
    • swelling of the face, mouth and throat (about one in 500,000 immunizations)
    • a temporary form of paralysis called Guillain Barre Syndrome. (about one in 2.5 million adult immunizations).

What are vaccines?
Vaccines are also called needles, baby shots, or immunizations. Vaccines help your immune system learn how to recognize the germs that cause diseases and fight them. Vaccines not only protect the people who are immunized but may also protect those who cannot be immunized for medical reasons. This is because someone who is immunized is less likely to spread infection. Before vaccines were available, little could be done to prevent serious diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles and rubella. Now, very few Canadians get sick or die from these diseases because people are protected by immunization. However, in countries where these vaccines are not routinely used,  experience shows that these diseases could again become common in Canada if we do not continue to immunize against them.

What are these diseases?
The Tdap vaccine provides protection against:

  • diphtheria
  • tetanus (lockjaw)
  • pertussis (whooping cough).

Diphtheria was once a common disease Now there are no more than three or four cases a year, usually involving people who are not protected through immunization. Diphtheria bacteria (germs) infect the throat, nose or skin. The germs are passed on to others by:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • close face-to-face contact with an infected person

Diphtheria can cause:

  • breathing problems
  • weakness
  • loss of movement in muscles
  • heart failure
  • sometimes death

Diphtheria kills one of every 10 people who get the disease.
Tetanus bacteria (germs) cause the disease when they get into cuts, puncture wounds or burns. Tetanus germs are common, especially in dirt, dust and manure. The germs form a poison, or toxin, that causes muscles to tighten and go into spasms (painful, uncontrollable tightening of the muscles). Tetanus can be very serious if it affects the body’s breathing
muscles. About two of every 10 people who get tetanus will die.

Pertussis (whooping cough) Has recently increased again. These outbreaks have included a higher percentage of young teens (up to 30 per cent). This may be due to a slow drop in protection from the whole cell vaccine that these individuals received as children. Whole cell vaccine is no longer used. Pertussis germs, or bacteria, are easily spread through:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • close face-to-face contact with an infected person.

Older children, teens and adults can have a mild case of pertussis that goes undiagnosed and, as a result, may unknowingly infect babies and young children. Babies and young children, especially those who are too young to have been fully protected by immunization, can get very sick from pertussis germs. The disease causes long coughing spells that make it hard for a small child to eat, drink or even breathe. The disease may last up to three months and sometimes causes serious problems:

  • about one in five infants with pertussis hasto be hospitalized;
    • of these infants, one in 200 dies; and
    • about one in 400 suffers brain damage.
October 2007