Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertusis (DTP) Vaccine

DTaP Vaccine (diptheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine): what you need to know

About the Diseases

Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus are serious diseases


  • Diptheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat.
  • It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death.

Tetanus (Lockjaw)

  • Tetanus causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body.
  • It can lead to "locking" of the jaw so the preson cannot open his mouth or swallow.
  • Tetanus can lead to death.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

  • Pertussis causes coughing spells so bad that it is hard for infants to eat, drink, or breathe. These can last for weeks.
  • It can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or even death.

About the Vaccine

The vaccine we use is the diptheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis vaccine, a newer vaccine introduced because this acellular version is less likely to cause reactions than the whole- cell pertussis vaccine that we used to use.

Related vaccines:

Combinations: to reduce the number of shots that a child must get, we use a combination vaccine, which includes Hib at the 18 month visit.

DT: protects against diphtheria and tetanus, but not pertussis. It is only recommended for children who should not get the pertussis component of the vaccine.

When should my Child get Vaccinated?

  • Most children should get a dose at these ages: 2,4, 6 months, 12-18 months, and 4-6 years.
  • At 11-12 years of age and every 10 years after that you should get a booster to prevent diphtheria and tetanus.

What are the Risks?

  • As with any medicine, vaccines carry a small risk of serious harm, such as a severe allergic reaction or even death.
  • If there are reactions, they usually start within 3 days and don't last long.
  • Most people have no serious reactions from these vaccines

We use the acellular pertussis vaccine because the risk of reactions is less likely

Mild Reactions (common)

  • sore arm or leg
  • fussiness
  • less appetite
  • tiredness
  • vomiting
  • fever

Moderate to Serious Reactions (uncommon)

  • non-stop crying
  • fever of 105 or higher
  • seizure
  • child becomes limp, pale, less alert

With the DTaP vaccine, these reactions are much less likely to happen

Severe Reactions (very rare)

there are two kinds of serious reactions:

  • Severe allergic reaction (breathing difficulty, shock)
  • Severe brain reaction (long seizure, coma or lowered consciousness)

Is there lasting damage?

Experts disagree on whether pertussis vaccines cause lasting brain damage. If they do, it's rare. Again, most experts believe that serious reactions will be even more rare after DTaP (the one we use).

What can be done to reduce fever and pain after this vaccine?

Give your child an aspirin-free pain reliever for 24 hours after the shot. This is important if your child has had a seizure or has a parent, brother, or sister who has had a seizure.

Children who should not get the vaccine

Tell us if your child

  • Ever had a moderate or serious reaction after getting vaccinated
  • Ever had a seizure
  • Has a parent, brother or sister who has had a seizure
  • Has a brain problem that is getting worse
  • Now has a moderate or severe illness

What if there is a moderate to severe reaction?

  • Call a doctor or get the child to a doctor right away
  • Tell us what happened, the date and time it happened and when the vaccination was given.
Information from the Us Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control.