Tdap Vaccine for Teens

Why Every Teen Needs the Tdap Vaccine

Doctor giving patient injection in volunteer clinic
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What is it? Tdap stands for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (whooping cough).

Brand names: Boostrix® (for ages 10 to 18 years old) or Adacel® (for ages 11 to 64 years old).

Who is it for? The Tdap vaccine is for any teen who needs a booster shot for one of the three diseases, or for a teen who needs a tetanus shot after an injury.

How is it given? This vaccine is given as a single booster shot, typically at the 11- or 12-year-old checkup.

What does it do? Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Of the three, pertussis (whooping cough) is by far the most common. Pertussis is a bacterial infection and starts out like the common cold with sneezing, runny nose, cough, and a low-grade fever. After a few weeks, the disease progresses to the “whooping” - a distinct cough, or series of coughs.

At one time, whooping cough was considered to be a childhood disease. Now, though, it is most common in teens and young adults who have not had a second round of vaccines. While whooping cough is rarely fatal in teens, it is highly contagious. If passed along to a pregnant woman or infant, it can be very dangerous.

Tetanus also is a bacterial infection that can cause serious muscle spasms, difficulty swallowing, seizures and lockjaw. Tetanus is a bacterial disease that is often caused by cuts or punctures. Although it is now rare (as a result of vaccines), it can be fatal: tetanus causes death in 10 to 20 percent of the cases.

Diphtheria is another bacteria-based respiratory disease that has been largely eradicated in the United States as a result of vaccines. It can progress to airway obstructions when a coating builds up in the throat, leading to difficulty breathing. Diphtheria can cause coma and even death. Diphtheria can also lead to pneumonia or rib fracture from the violent coughing.


Common side effects of the vaccine: Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever, headache, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomachache, or other mild symptoms.

Who should not get it: Anyone who has had a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine or any of its components. A serious allergic reaction includes difficulty breathing, throat swelling, hives, weakness, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.


Combined Tdap Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control. November 9, 2008.

Possible Side-effects from Vaccines. Centers for Disease Control. November 9, 2008.

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine: What You Need to Know. Centers for Disease Control. November 9, 2008.

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