The Importance of Tetanus Vaccine

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on February 12, 2024
5 min read

The tetanus vaccine is part of the recommended series of childhood and adult immunizations. It protects against the bacterial infection tetanus, also known as lockjaw. Tetanus causes jaw cramping and painful muscle spasms. There's no cure, and 10%-20% of people who have it die.

The tetanus vaccine has made tetanus a preventable disease. Thanks to its widespread use, lockjaw has become very rare in the U.S. Even so, you need to be vaccinated against it.

Four different kinds of vaccines protect against tetanus and other diseases. The one you get is based on your age and what vaccines you have already had.

For babies and young children:

For older children and adults:

  • Tdap protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
  • Td is a booster shot for older children and adults and only protects against diphtheria and tetanus.

Children typically get five doses of the DTaP vaccine at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, between 15 and 18 months, and between 4 and 6 years. Then comes one dose of Tdap between the ages of 11 and 12 and a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years.

If you didn't get a tetanus vaccine as a child, you should start with a three-dose series. You'll get two shots at least 4 weeks apart and a third shot 6-12 months later. After that, you'll need a booster every 10 years.

Your might need an extra tetanus shot if you get a deep cut or wound. For instance, if you step on a rusty nail, your

How long does a tetanus vaccine last?

You need to get a tetanus booster every 10 years. Some studies have found it may protect you much longer, maybe even up to 30 years. But more research is needed to confirm that.

The tetanus vaccine activates your immune system. Then, your immune system makes special proteins called antibodies, which fight bacteria. If the bacteria that cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, find their way into your skin, the antibodies will identify and destroy them.

Tetanus vaccine dose

A typical tetanus vaccine dose contains 0.5 mL of tetanus toxoid.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that everyone should be vaccinated for tetanus. Babies and children should have their vaccines according to the recommended schedule. As an adult, you should have a tetanus shot if you:

  • Did not get a series of tetanus shots as a child
  • Have not had a tetanus booster in the last 10 years

Your doctor may also recommend having a tetanus shot if you have a deep cut or skin puncture.

You'll need a tetanus shot during your third trimester of pregnancy. The best time to receive the shot is between 27 and 36 weeks. The vaccine is given each time you're pregnant to protect you and your baby from tetanus.

Your doctor will give you the Tdap vaccine. It also protects newborns against whooping cough, which has been on the rise. Research has shown fewer babies die from whooping cough when Tdap is given during pregnancy instead of waiting until after birth.

You can receive Tdap any time during your pregnancy if you develop a cut or if there's a whooping cough outbreak. Even if you get the shot when you first become pregnant, you should get another one during your third trimester.

The tetanus vaccine is safe for most people. You shouldn't get a Tdap vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction in the past to any vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Talk to your doctor about alternatives.

You should also talk to your doctor before having the vaccine if you have:

  • A bleeding disorder
  • A history of seizures
  • Any problems with your nervous system
  • An immune system disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome

The tetanus vaccine may interact with certain medicines you take. Tell your doctor if you take:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Cancer drugs
  • Medications that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants)

The vaccine contains the bacteria that cause tetanus. But they have been "deactivated" in a lab. This means they are not live bacteria and are not able to cause the disease. But they will still cause your body to create an immune response that will protect you in the future.

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.

Rare risks are:

  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Bad muscle aches and weakness

Also rare, small children may have more serious side effects from the DTap vaccine, such as:

  • Seizures
  • Fever above 105 F
  • Continuous crying for a few hours or more

Sometimes, the tetanus vaccine can cause mild side effect, such as:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection
  • Low fever
  • Headache or body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fussiness in babies and small children

You can get a tetanus vaccine at your doctor's office. They also may be available at local pharmacies, health departments, health centers, or other clinics.

Tetanus injection price

The price of a tetanus shot depends on your insurance coverage. Many plans cover the cost completely. With some plans you'll need to pay a copay. If you don't have insurance, a booster shot will cost you about $60.

The tetanus vaccine protects against tetanus, which is a serious bacterial infection. You should have a series of tetanus vaccines during childhood. As an adult, you should get a booster vaccine every 10 years. Talk to your doctor if you think you're behind on your vaccines or if you've never had a tetanus shot.

How often do you really need a tetanus shot?

After you're fully vaccinated, most doctors recommend that you receive a booster tetanus shot every 10 years.

Is Tdap the same as tetanus?

Tdap is a combination vaccine, which means it contains two or more vaccines in the same shot. Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).

How long does the tetanus shot last?

The tetanus shot lasts at least 10 years. Some studies have found it may last longer, but more research is needed to confirm those findings.

What ages do you need tetanus shots?

Children need a DTaP shot at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, between 15 and 18 months, and between 4 years and 6 years. After that, they will need one dose of Tdap between ages 8 and 11. Then, doctors recommend a booster every 10 years.