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NC Department of Health and Human Services
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North Carolina Immunization Branch

Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Tetanus

The Disease

Tetanus (lockjaw) is a serious disease that causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to "locking" of the jaw so the victim cannot open his mouth or swallow. Tetanus leads to death in about 1 in 10 cases.

The Vaccine

The vaccine to prevent tetanus generally is given in combination with vaccines to prevent diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).  The vaccine given to children through age 7 is called DTaP while the booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap.  Additional abbreviations for the tetanus-containing vaccines are:  DTP, DT or Td. 

Who Should get Vaccinated?

Everyone needs protection from tetanus.

Children under 7 years of age should receive five doses of DTaP.  The doses should be given at 2, 4 and 6 months, at 15 through 18 months, and at 4 through 6 years.

Adults who never received at least three doses of diphtheria-containing vaccine should receive one dose of the vaccine.  Adults should receive a booster dose every 10 years.

North Carolina Requirements

Children in North Carolina are required to receive five doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine.   The first three doses should be received by 7 months of age.  A booster should be given at 15 to 18 months of age and a second booster should be given at 4 to 6 years of age and before enrolling in school for the first time.  Children who receive the first booster dose on or after their fourth birthday are not required to have a second booster dose.

Adolescents are required to receive one dose of Tdap vaccine before entering the 6th grade if five or more years have passed since their last dose of tetanus-containing vaccine.

Students enrolling in college or university for the first time on or after July 1, 2008 are required to have three doses of tetanus and diphtheria-containing vaccine and a booster dose of Tdap vaccine if 10 or more years has passed since their last dose of tetanus-containing vaccine. A dose of Tdap vaccine is not required for any student over 64 years of age.

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