Tdap Vaccine: Why Your Teen Should Get One (Video)

Immunity decreases five to 10 years after childhood shots

Is your teen going away to college this fall? That may seem like a long way off, but it’s not too early to think about the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccine – which will be especially important if your teen is living in close quarters.

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More importantly, the Tdap vaccine could save your teen’s life.

The vaccine protects against 3 illnesses:

  • Pertussis — which can cause severe coughing and respiratory distress. Also known as whooping cough, reported cases have steadily increased since the 1980s.
  • Tetanus — which can cause severe muscle stiffness, respiratory failure and even death.
  • Diphtheria — which can cause a deadly throat infection.

Although children are vaccinated when they are young, immunity starts to decrease five to 10 years after their childhood shots, so teens need a booster between the age 16 and 18.

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Tdap vaccine safety

The United States saw as many as 200,000 cases a year of diphtheria and pertussis before vaccines were available, and hundreds of cases of tetanus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Since then, tetanus and diphtheria cases have dropped by about 99 percent and pertussis cases by about 92 percent.

Experts say any vaccine, including Tdap, may carry some risk, but getting diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis disease is much riskier than getting the vaccine. Also, the risk of Tdap vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

Common, mild issues that can occur include a fever and/or redness, soreness, swelling or tenderness where the shot was given. Fewer people may feel tired or have a poor appetite and, even more rarely, vomiting can occur.

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