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Vaccines Health Center

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Tetanus Vaccine: Questions and Answers

Which adults should receive the tetanus vaccine?

You should have a tetanus shot if you:

  • Did not receive a primary series of tetanus shots as a child
  • Have not had a tetanus booster in the last 10 years
  • Have recovered from tetanus

Are there any adults who should not get the tetanus vaccine?

You should not get a Tdap vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction after a previous Tdap vaccine. You also should not get a Tdap vaccine if you have a history of coma or seizures within a week following a previous Tdap vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you have a history of epilepsy or other nervous system problems, severe pain or swelling in the past after a previous tetanus vaccine, or a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

It is OK to receive the tetanus vaccine during pregnancy. In fact, current guidelines recommend that all pregnant women receive a Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, specifically to prevent pertussis.

Wait to get the Tdap vaccine if you have a moderate to severe acute illness.

What are the tetanus vaccine ingredients?

The vaccines are made up of tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis toxins that have been made nontoxic but they still have the ability to create an immune response. These vaccines do not contain live bacteria.

Are there any dangers or side effects associated with the tetanus vaccine?

It's important to know that, in general, the risk of problems from getting tetanus is much greater than from getting a tetanus vaccine. You cannot get tetanus from the tetanus shot. However, sometimes the tetanus vaccine can cause mild side effects. These may include:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection
  • Fever
  • Headache or body aches
  • Fatigue

A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is also very rare, but can result within minutes of being vaccinated. Symptoms may include:

If you have any signs of a severe reaction:

  • Call 911 or get to a hospital right away.
  • Describe when you had the vaccine and what occurred.
  • Have a health care professional report the reaction.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Scott Keller, MD on March 29, 2014
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