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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

Five doses (DTaP). Three doses by age seven months and two booster doses, the first by age 19 months and the second on or after the fourth birthday and before entering school for the first time. If the fourth dose was administered on or after the fourth birthday, the fifth dose is not required.

A booster dose of tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is required for individuals who have not previously received it and are entering the seventh grade or by 12 years of age, whichever comes first.

Individuals entering college or university for the first time on or after July 1, 2008 must have had three doses of tetanus/diptheria toxoid; one of which must be tetanus/diptheria/pertussis.

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