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by McCoy K

Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Vaccine

(DTaP Vaccine)

What Does This Vaccine Help Prevent?

This vaccine helps prevent 3 serious infections:
  • Diphtheria—can cause breathing problems, paralysis and heart problems
  • Tetanus—causes painful muscle tightening all over the body including the jaw (known as lockjaw)
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)—causes bad coughing spells that make breathing, eating, and drinking hard to do especially for infants and young children
All of these infections have the ability to cause serious illnesses and deaths.

What Is the DTaP Vaccine?

The DTaP vaccine is made of:
  • Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids
  • Small pieces of inactive pertussis bacteria
These items show the body what the germs look like without causing an infection. Once the body learns this it will be able to quickly identify and kill the germs before an infection starts.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?


The DTaP vaccine is often required before starting school. The regular schedule is to give the vaccine at:
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15-18 months
  • 4-6 years

Catch-up Schedule

Talk to your doctor if you or your child have not been fully vaccinated. They will create a catch-up plan for you.

What Are the Risks Associated With the DTaP Vaccine?

Most people will not have any problems with this vaccine. The most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site. There may also be mild fever, tiredness, nausea, or vomiting. Rarely, a fever of more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 degrees Celsius) and seizures may occur.
Acetaminophen is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. In infants, the medicine may weaken the vaccine's effect. However, in children at risk for seizures, a fever-lowering medicine may be important to take. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with the doctor.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

Most should receive their vaccinations on schedule. However, vaccination risks may outweigh the benefits for some such as:
  • People that had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of DTaP
  • Anyone with a brain or nervous system disease within 7 days after a dose of DTaP
Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you have:
  • Epilepsy or other nervous system problems
  • Severe swelling or severe pain after a previous dose of any component of the vaccination to be given
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Moderate or severe illness—wait until you recover to get the vaccine

What Other Ways Can Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?

Prevention will depend on the infection:
  • Diphtheria—best prevention is vaccination.
  • Tetanus—care properly for wounds. This includes promptly cleaning wounds and seeing a doctor for proper care.
  • Pertussis—keep infants and other people at high risk away from infected people.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics


DTaP vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated August 2018. Accessed December 27, 2018.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated February 6, 2018. Accessed December 27, 2018.
10/30/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance Prymula R, Siegrist C, et al. Effect of prophylactic paracetamol administration at time of vaccination on febrile reactions and antibody responses in children: Two open-label, randomised controlled trials. Lancet. 2009;374(9698):1339-1350.
11/4/2011 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) in pregnant women and persons who have or anticipate having close contact with an infant aged < 12 months—Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(41):1424-1426.

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