One of the most common vaccines in the United States is the DTaP vaccine. The vaccine is meant to prevent the spread of Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis from an infected or exposed person to another person.
The DTaP vaccine was introduced in 1997 by the FDA to replace the DTP vaccine formula, which was linked to safety issues concerning young children.
What is the DTaP vaccine?
A shot of DTaP provides protection against three bacterial illnesses.
- Diphtheria is a bacterial infection spread from person to person. The infection causes a thick coating in the back of the throat, which leads to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis and even death.
- Tetanus enters the body through open wounds or cuts. People with tetanus experience painful muscle contractions and tightening all over the body, especially the jaw. Death occurs in every two out of ten reported cases.
- Pertussis (whopping cough) is a highly contagious disease spread from person to person. In children, coughing spells reduce the ability to eat, drink and breathe. Whopping cough can last for weeks and lead to seizures, pneumonia, brain damage and even death.
DTaP Side Effects
Approximately 25% of children who receive the DTaP vaccine experience minor side effects.
These include low-grade fever, redness, swelling or tenderness at the injection site. Additionally, children may become fussiness, tiredness or vomiting following the immunization.
Moderate to severe side effects include seizures; non-stop crying that lasts over three hours and fever over 105 degrees F occur less frequently.
Children may experience rare but serious side effects like brachial neuritis, Guillan-Barre syndrome (GBS) and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM).
- Brachial neuritis causes inflammation of nerve bundles in the shoulder, arms and fingers and results in muscle weakness or atrophy.
- Guillan-Barre syndrome has no cure and includes symptoms of blurred vision, paralysis and low blood pressure.
- Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, ADEM, causes headaches, lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, seizures and coma.
Who is should receive the DTaP vaccine?
Doctors recommend that all children receive the DTaP vaccine series to prevent the spread of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
Infants receive a series of five doses of the vaccine beginning at two months of age. The remaining doses occur at four months, six months, between 15 and 18 months, and the final dosage before entering school between four and six years of age.Most children who receive the full series of the shots are protected throughout their childhood from contracting these diseases.
Certain considerations need to be taken before the shot is administered to prevent potential side effects. For example, If a child has a moderate to severe sickness delay the shot until the child has recovered.
Avoid the vaccine in the event of previous life-threatening allergic reaction, seizure or fever over 105 degrees.Children who experienced a nervous system or brain disease within seven days of a previous DTaP vaccine should not receive another dose.
Children over the age of seven years old, adolescents and adults receive a different version of the vaccine called Tdap. This single dose vaccine protects against the same diseases, but it is formulated for people ages 11 through 64 years old.