What is the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP and Tdap) vaccine?
The DTaP or Tdap vaccines are combined vaccinations which protect you from the onset of three distinct bacterial diseases, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (more commonly known as whooping cough).
The DTaP vaccine is given to children. It is compulsory for those living in Singapore and is part of the Health Promotion Board’s National Childhood Immunisation Schedule. 3 doses of the vaccine are administered to children at 3 months, 4 months and 5 months. A booster DTaP shot is administered to them again when they are 18 months.
Following that, the Tdap vaccine is administered when the children are 10-11 years old, usually in their primary schools as part of the Immunisation Schedule.
Unlike the DTaP vaccine which is for children, the Tdap vaccine is given to adolescents and adults. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that those who did not receive the Tdap vaccine at 10-11 years get it as soon as possible.
The vaccine is particularly important for travelers who may come into contact with these diseases, and pregnant women as it can transmit pertussis antibodies to their children. T
What is tetanus?
Tetanus is a rare but serious infection caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani entering a wound. Common sources are cuts in the skin from objects contaminated with soil, feces, or saliva, usually nails or needles.
Symptoms take an average of 10 days to appear, and include muscle contractions, particularly in the jaw, difficulty swallowing, fever, and stiffness and pain throughout the body.
According to the CDC, tetanus is fatal in 10-20% of cases.
What is diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a disease caused by a bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It spreads from person to person, usually through coughing and sneezing, or through contact with contaminated objects.
Symptoms include fever, sore throat, swelling of the neck glands, and weakness. In some cases, the infection can lead to complications such as breathing problems, heart failure and, eventually, death.
It’s found in Africa, South America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central and South East Asia where vaccine coverage is low.
Singapore’s Infectious Diseases Act (IDA), which came into force in 1977, stipulates that every child be vaccinated against diphtheria.
What is pertussis (whooping cough)?
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is an infection of the lungs and airways caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Endemic throughout the world, it is spread in the droplets released by coughs and sneezes.
First symptoms are similar to a cold, and include a blocked or runny nose, red, watery eyes, fever and fatigue.
About a week later, uncontrollable coughing spells begin, which can make it difficult to breathe. The disease can affect anyone at any age, and is particularly risky for infants and young children.
Who should get the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine?
These three diseases can be found in various regions around the world and travellers are at risk of being exposed to one or more of them.
Travellers are advised to ensure their immunisation against tetanus is up to date.
MOH’s National Adult Immunisation Schedule advises pregnant women to receive the Tdap vaccine once during every pregnancy so that their newborns are protected from pertussis. They are advised to get the vaccine when they are between 16 and 32 weeks pregnant so that the antibodies are most effectively passed on to their babies.
Diphtheria is a risk for travellers to countries where there is low uptake of the diphtheria vaccine. Therefore, travellers seeking protection from one or more of these diseases may find it most convenient to receive the Tdap vaccine (3-in-one) in Singapore before they begin their trip.
Who should not get the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine?
The vaccine is not recommended if you have:
- had a previous allergy to the vaccine or any of its ingredients,
- had a coma or long repeated seizures within 7 days after a childhood dose of DTaP,
- neurological problems, including poorly controlled epilepsy,
- a fever at the time of vaccination.
If you fall into any of the following categories, consult your health provider beforehand to check whether the vaccine is suitable for you:
- you have seizures or another nervous system problem,
- you have had severe pain or swelling after receiving any vaccine containing diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis,
- you have or had a condition called Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS),
- you aren’t feeling well on the day the shot is scheduled.
How long before a trip do you have to get the DTaP vaccine?
You should ensure you’ve had a full primary course of the vaccine, and receive a booster every 10 years if you plan to travel to an area where diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis are considered high risk, and where access to medical treatment may be difficult.
How effective is the DTaP vaccine?
Once you have received the full schedule of doses required, protection is estimated to be 99% effective.
What are the side effects of the DTaP vaccine?
As with all vaccines, some people may have minor side effects, such as swelling, redness or tenderness where the injection is given. These symptoms usually disappear one to two days after the vaccine was administered. Sometimes a small painless lump develops, but it usually disappears in a few weeks.
How many jabs are needed?
If you had the DTaP vaccination as a child, the Tdap vaccination as an adolescent and your last dose was more than 10 years ago, you may need a single booster jab of the Tdap vaccine to ensure you are protected when you travel.
Healthcare workers and pregnant women are also advised to get a jab if more than 10 years has passed since their booster shot since the immunity from the shot wanes with age.
What is the minimum age requirement for the DTaP vaccine?
Routine DTaP vaccination usually begins at 3 months of age. The Tdap vaccine is suitable for adolescents from the age of 10 and adults.
How long does the DTaP vaccine last?
The DTaP vaccination is only given once. However, boosters to protect against tetanus and diphtheria may be required every 10 years, especially for people who travel.