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DTaP immunization (vaccine)

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Definition    Return to top

DTaP immunization is a vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).

See also:

Information    Return to top

The DTaP vaccine is highly effective for the prevention of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis -- all of which are serious, potentially deadly, diseases. It is given by a shot (injection), usually into the arm or the thigh.


DTaP vaccination is one of the recommended childhood immunizations. DTaP vaccine can be safely given to infants. Five DTaP vaccines are recommended. They are usually given to children at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years. DTaP immunization is generally required before a child can start school.

After the initial series of immunizations, a Tdap vaccine should be given around age 11 or 12, and every 10 years thereafter. This vaccine provides further protection against tetanus diphtheria, and pertussis, and is used as a booster.

DTaP is recommended unless there is a reason that the child should not receive the pertussis vaccine (such as allergic reaction), in which case a vaccine against diphtheria and tetanus (DT vaccine) should only be given.


DTaP may cause the following mild side effects, which usually only last a few days:

Some health care providers recommend taking one dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) just before getting the vaccine to help avoid common, minor side effects. A warm, damp cloth or a heating pad may help reduce soreness. Frequently moving or using the arm or leg that has received the injection is recommended and often reduces the soreness.

Moderate to serious reactions are uncommon. They may include:

Severe reactions are extremely rare, but may include severe allergic reaction such as breathing difficulties and shock. Such reactions occur in less than 1 per 1,000,000 children. Long-term seizures and brain damage are so rare that the association with vaccine is questionable.

Usually, a child who has had a problem with the DTaP vaccine can safely receive the Td vaccine.


If your child is sick with something more serious than a mild cold, DTaP may be delayed until he or she is better.

The DTaP vaccine is not be recommended if the patient developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within 6 weeks of receiving a tetanus shot.

If your child has had any of the following reactions after an earlier DTaP, check with your health care provider before the child receives another one:


References    Return to top

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Recommended immunization schedules for children and adolescents--United States, 2008. Pediatrics. 2008 Jan;121(1):219-20.

Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Aged 7–18 Years--United States, 2008. MMWR. October 19, 2007 / 56(41);Q1-Q4.

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, October 2007-September 2008. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Nov 20;147(10):725-9.

Update Date: 6/17/2008

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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