What Is the Tdap Vaccine?

tdap vaccine

Tdap stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. It’s a combination vaccine for adults that protects against these three potentially life-threatening diseases. 

Tdap uses dead bacteria, which can’t cause illness, to stimulate the body’s immune system. This prepares it to fight the live bacteria if they enter the body. 

The vaccine given to children for these diseases is referred to as DTaP. 

Why You Need the Tdap Vaccine

The Tdap vaccine provides vital protection against three diseases that can be deadly:

  • Tetanus. Tetanus is caused by a bacterium that enters the body through a cut, burn, or other wound. As the bacteria multiply, they produce a toxin that causes muscles to contract uncontrollably. The toxin primarily affects muscles in the jaw and neck, producing a condition known as “lockjaw.” There’s no cure for tetanus, and it kills one in five people who become ill with it. 
  • Diphtheria. This disease causes inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose and throat that make it difficult to breathe. Doctors can treat it with medications, but if it reaches the advanced stage, it can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and heart. 
  • Pertussis. Also called whooping cough, pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection. It causes severe coughing followed by sharp inhalations that create a high-pitched “whoop” sound. Pertussis is rarely life-threatening but can be serious in infants who haven’t received a vaccine and teens or adults whose immunity has declined. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the Tdap vaccine for anyone 19 and older who hasn’t been vaccinated against the three diseases. The vaccine is crucial for healthcare workers who have direct patient contact, pregnant women in their third trimester, people who care for infants under one year old, and people who visit countries where pertussis is common. 

How Often Can Tdap Be Given?

Your doctor or the doctor in an emergency room or urgent care center may recommend getting the Tdap vaccine if you suffer a severe cut or burn and haven’t been vaccinated or are unsure about your vaccination status. You can receive the vaccine regardless of how long it’s been since you last received it. 

Tdap is one shot that your care provider can give at the same time as other vaccines. It’s also safe for those over age 65. 

Who Needs a Tdap Booster?

The Tdap vaccine is effective for many years. Some people only receive it once in their lifetime. 

However, people who are pregnant or care for others, particularly young children, should receive a booster. Your doctor may also recommend a booster to enhance tetanus and diphtheria protection.  

Learn More About the Tdap Vaccine and Others From Baptist Health

Vaccination is one of the best ways to avoid serious illnesses, from tetanus to COVID-19. If you have questions about the safety or effectiveness of Tdap and other vaccines, your Baptist Health primary care physician is happy to answer them. 

If you don’t yet have a Baptist Health doctor, you can find one using our online provider directory.  


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