Tetanus

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Did you know? 

Up to 1 in 5 people who get tetanus may die.

What is a booster dose? 

Immunity (protection) from some vaccines weakens with time. A "booster" dose is an added dose of vaccine given to strengthen or "boost" the immune system to provide better protection against disease. 

What is the tetanus vaccine?

The tetanus vaccine protects against tetanus, a serious disease caused by a bacteria. 

The tetanus vaccine is combined with other vaccines so that you or your child can get protection against several diseases with fewer shots. 

Who should get the tetanus vaccine?

Tetanus vaccination is recommended for people of all ages. There are many different combination vaccines used to prevent tetanus in infants, young children, school-age children, and adults. 

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib) Vaccine 

  • This vaccine is given as a series of 3 doses to infants at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. 

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-Hib) Vaccine 

  • This vaccine is given to infants as a booster dose at 18 months of age after completing a three-dose primary series of DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib.

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio (Tdap-IPV) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is given as one dose to children 4-6 years of age. This is a booster dose for children who were immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio at a younger age. 

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is offered to all students in Grade 9. This is a booster dose for children immunized against these diseases at a younger age.
  • The Tdap vaccine can also be given to children 7 years of age and older who have not been fully immunized, and to adults or immigrants who have not been immunized or whose immunization history is unknown.
  • People born in 1989 or later who missed their adolescent dose of Tdap are eligible to get one dose of this vaccine for free.
  • A booster dose of the Tdap vaccine is recommended for adults who were immunized in childhood but is not provided for free in B.C.

Tetanus and Diphtheria (Td) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is given as a booster dose to adults who were immunized against tetanus and diphtheria when they were younger. A booster dose of this vaccine is recommended every 10 years.
  • Adults who have not been immunized or do not have a record of prior immunization should also get the vaccine.
  • This vaccine may also be given to people with serious cuts or deep wounds if their last tetanus vaccine was given more than 5 years ago.

If you have a serious cut or wound, including punctures, bites, burns, or scrapes, please see your health care provider immediately for treatment. This is especially important if the wound is dirty.

What are the benefits of the tetanus vaccine?

Vaccination is the best way to protect against tetanus, a serious disease that sometimes causes death. Tetanus is different from other vaccine-preventable diseases because it does not spread from person to person. Any person not vaccinated against tetanus is at risk.

What are the side effects?

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than it is to get tetanus. 

Many people have no side effects from these vaccines. For those that do, side effects are usually mild and last 1 to 2 days (see a list of common side effects for each vaccine below). Serious side effects are very rare.

It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is a very rare chance, between one in 100,000 and one in a million, of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your immunizing health care provider.

DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib Vaccine

Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Some children may have a fever or experience crankiness, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, persistent crying, or a loss of appetite. These reactions are mild and usually last 1 to 2 days.

DTaP-IPV-Hib Vaccine

Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Some children may have a fever, or experience crankiness, drowsiness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. These reactions are mild and generally last 1 to 2 days. Large areas of redness and swelling may be present but these generally do not interfere with normal activity.

Tdap-IPV Vaccine

Common side effects may include may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Fever, chills, headache, and fatigue may also occur. These reactions are mild and generally last 1 to 2 days. Large areas of redness and swelling may be present but these generally do not interfere with normal activity.

Tdap Vaccine

Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given. Headache, fatigue, muscle or joint soreness, and mild fever may also occur.

Td Vaccine

Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Fever, headache, and muscle soreness may also occur.

Where can I learn more?

  • Click on the vaccine name above to read the HealthLink BC File. 
  • Talk to your immunizing health care provider. 

About tetanus 

  • Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is caused by bacteria usually found in dirt, soil, and dust.
  • When the bacteria enter the skin through a cut or scrape, they produce a poison that can cause painful tightening of muscles all over the body.
  • It is very serious if the breathing muscles are affected.
  • Up to 1 in 5 people who get tetanus may die.
Date last updated: 
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Apr 06, 2020