What Is Tdap Vaccination?

By Katharine Paljug @kpaljug
February 28, 2018

Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis are serious diseases that can be fatal. Learn what is Tdap vaccination, who needs it, and why it is important for every pregnant woman.

What is Tdap vaccination?

The Tdap vaccine protects adolescents and adults against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. It is the adult version of the DTaP vaccine, which is given to children and protects against the same illnesses.

Tetanus, also called lockjaw, causes painful muscle stiffening all over the body. It can cause the muscles in the head and neck to become so tight that you cannot open your mouth to eat, drink, or swallow. In some cases, it makes breathing difficult. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tetanus is fatal in about 10 percent of cases.


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Diphtheria creates a thick coating in the back of your throat. It can cause breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death. Diphtheria is rare in developed countries like the United States, in large part thanks to high vaccination rates.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, causes severe coughing and difficulty breathing, along with weight loss and rib fractures. People with severe pertussis, or who have weakened immune systems, are often hospitalized or develop secondary infections like pneumonia. It can be fatal, especially for young children and the elderly.

Since vaccination for these diseases began in the mid-twentieth century, rates of all three dropped significantly in the United States. Incidents of tetanus and diphtheria dropped about 99 percent, while cases of pertussis decreased by around 80 percent.


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March 26, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN