What Is Tetanus?
Tetanus is a disease caused by spores of the Clostridium tetani bacteria, which is commonly found in soil and animal feces. When the spores enter your body, they grow into bacteria and produce a toxin called tetanospasmin. This toxin impairs your motor neurons, the nerves that control your muscles.
Unfortunately, 10% to 20% of infected individuals die since there’s currently no cure for tetanus, and treatment involves pain relief, supportive care, and wound care. That’s why the tetanus vaccine is commonly given to children.
How Do You Get Infected with Tetanus?
Tetanus isn’t a contagious disease – you can only get it from a cut or a wound. The bacteria can enter through even the tiniest of scratches, but you’re more likely to get tetanus from deeper wounds. It travels via the blood vessels and eventually reaches your central nervous system.
Tetanus bacteria usually take seven to 10 days to incubate. Tetanus side effects and symptoms can manifest as early as a few days to several weeks after the bacteria enters the body. Tetanus causes:
- Jaw muscle spasms (called lockjaw)
- Sudden muscle spasms (usually in the stomach)
- Abnormal blood pressure
- Difficulty swallowing
- Muscle stiffness
- Faster heart rate
- Jaw cramping
What Is the Tetanus Vaccine?
The tetanus vaccine encourages the body’s immune system to develop natural immunity from tetanus. It comes in four different variants, and the CDC recommends using specific types depending on the individual’s age group. All forms of this vaccine combine vaccines for pertussis, diphtheria, or both:
- DT: Diphtheria and tetanus combination vaccines
- DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis combination vaccines
- Td: Tetanus and diphtheria combination vaccines
- Tdap: Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis combination booster vaccines
Who Is the Tetanus Vaccine For?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that babies and children younger than seven years old should receive DT or DTaP, while adults and older children should take Td and Tdap.
Children typically receive the DT vaccine if they have prior adverse reactions to DTaP. These symptoms include seizures, prolonged crying, 105oF fevers, and allergic reactions.
Who Shouldn’t Take the Tetanus Vaccine?
According to the CDC:
- Adults who developed an adverse allergic reaction after getting a vaccine that contained diphtheria or tetanus shouldn’t get Td.
- Anyone with epilepsy and/or nervous system conditions should consult with their doctor before taking Td.
- People who developed an adverse allergic reaction after getting a vaccine that contained tetanus, pertussis, or diphtheria shouldn’t get Tdap.
History of the Tetanus Vaccine
In 1924, scientists discovered and produced the first inactive variant of the tetanus toxin. By 1938, they created an efficient vaccine and used it to prevent tetanus during World War II.
The first recorded use of the combination DTP vaccine was in 1948, and it continued until 1991. However, this early version of DTP caused redness, pain, and swelling around the injection site, which encouraged researchers to produce a safer variant.
By 1992, TDaP and DTaP entered the vaccine market. Both were given to both children and adults, unlike before, where the vaccine was only used for children.
Tetanus Vaccine Side Effects
As with any other vaccine, certain individuals may experience mild side effects after inoculation with the tetanus vaccine. These symptoms include:
- Pain, swelling, redness, tenderness, or itching around the injection site
- Muscle aches
- Mild fevers
- Joint pain
Most of these common side effects are signs that your immune system is responding to build immunity against the disease.
Tetanus Vaccine Injury and Disease
Aside from the side effects we’ve mentioned, people who receive tetanus vaccines may also develop long-term injuries and diseases.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), a government program that provides financial compensation for certain vaccines, covers these four conditions caused by the tetanus vaccine:
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can cause death. It can occur as fast as seconds or minutes after exposure to the allergen. The VICP states that the symptoms should appear no later than four hours after the vaccination to file a successful claim. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the face or throat
- Rapid heartbeat
Brachial neuritis is a rare condition that can occur after a vaccination, and it affects the function of the arms, hands, chest, and shoulders. Fortunately, it often goes away on its own after a couple of months, but it could be a symptom of an underlying condition.
The VICP states that the symptoms should appear between two to 28 days after the vaccination for a claim to be valid.
The pertussis containing vaccines are linked to encephalopathy and seizures. Tetanus vaccines often contain pertussis. Read our article on the difference between encephalitis vs. encephalopathy.
Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA)
SIRVA is a complication caused by improper vaccine administration, where the vaccination site is too high into the patient’s shoulder joint. This snag can cause reduced shoulder motor functions and shoulder pain. These symptoms should appear no later than four days after the vaccination to make a VICP valid claim.
Further development of other conditions like tendinitis, torn rotator cuffs, or bursitis is also possible.
This condition occurs when your body reacts to a specific trigger – in this case, vaccination – and it leads to fainting. Vasovagal syncope can also cause lowered blood pressure and heart rates. Other symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Tunnel vision
- Pallid skin
These symptoms should appear no more than an hour after the vaccination to make a VICP valid claim.
Other conditions that have been reported after tetanus vaccination but are not covered by the VICP include:
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)
- Parsonage-Turner Syndrome
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Bleeding disorders
Does a Tetanus shot hurt?
All vaccines produce some pain after vaccination. Tetanus shot side effects include injection site pain, however this is different from a SIRVA, and should not last more than a couple of days.
How Many Tetanus Vaccine-Related Cases Are Filed in the VICP So Far?
As of November 2020, there have been 152 filed injuries and three filed deaths, and out of these reports, the VICP compensated 82.
Is the Tetanus Vaccine Dangerous?
Although very rare, the tetanus vaccine can cause life-threatening side effects, including brain damage, severe allergic reactions, seizures, and more.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the tetanus vaccine, our legal team at Sadaka Associates would be happy to help you out. Call our vaccine hotline at 1-800-810-3457 or fill out the form below.
GBS AFTER TD VACCINE
$300,000 + total settlement, including $302,064 lump sum award, for adult male who suffered from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) after receiving a tetanus-diphtheria vaccine.
GBS AFTER TETANUS VACCINE
$305,000 settlement for a 35 year old man from NC who developed Guillanin-Barre Syndrome, GBS as a result of receiving the Tetanus-diphtheria, Td vaccine.