What You Should Know About Tdap
Tdap is a vaccine booster given to reduce the risk of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. A similar vaccine, DTaP is given to children under age 7 to help them develop immunity against these serious diseases.
Both Tdap and DTaP contain inactivated toxins, which means the vaccines trigger an immune response in the body to protect against the diseases. Since the substance is inactive – you can’t catch the diseases from the vaccine.
Immunity is reduced over time, so some vaccines require “boosters” to reestablish immunity. Td boosters shots are recommended every 10 years, but the recent increase in the number of whooping cough cases has led disease experts to recommend that one dose of the Tdap vaccine be substituted for Td between the ages of 11 and 64.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend the Tdap vaccine for pregnant women after 20 weeks gestation, regardless of their prior vaccination history. If you are pregnant, your OB/GYN will likely administer the vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks.
Tetanus, Diphtheria & Pertussis
Since babies depend on maternal antibodies for protection against disease, it’s important for expectant mothers to maintain current immunizations. The diseases Tdap helps prevent include:
Tetanus: Caused by bacteria found in soil, dust and manure. The tetanus bacteria enter the body through breaks in the skin. The disease causes muscles to tighten and is sometimes called “lockjaw” because jaw muscles can become so tense it is impossible to open the mouth. Although tetanus cases are rare in the U.S., thanks to vaccines, any unvaccinated individual, or person in whom immunity has lapsed, is susceptible to the disease.
Diphtheria: This illness spreads from person to person through coughing and sneezing or touching contaminated objects. Diphtheria leads to weakness, sore throat, fever and enlarged glands. Individuals who contract diphtheria can experience airway blockage, heart muscle damage, nerve damage, lung infection and paralysis.
Pertussis: This highly contagious bacterial disease is also called whooping cough because of the harsh, uncontrollable coughing fits it produces. The illness is particularly dangerous in infants and can cause them to stop breathing, leading to death.
These diseases have serious consequences for both adults and infants. To protect infants, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following:
- Tdap vaccine be administered to women during pregnancy
- All individuals who are in close contact with infants be up-to-date with the pertussis vaccine
- All children receive their childhood DTaP vaccine