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Tetanus & Tetanus Vaccine Quick Facts


tetanus vaccine

Tetanus

  • Tetanus, often referred to as lockjaw, is caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria and can be found in soil, manure, and even in the digestive tracts of animals and humans. Tetanus has also been reported in contaminated heroin as well as on skin surfaces.1 Tetanus is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from person to person.2 Tetanus bacteria can enter the body when a person sustains a deep cut, or even a burn3 and can also occur following abortions, elective surgeries, ear infections, pregnancy, dental infections, animal bites, and crush wounds.4
  • Tetanus bacteria do not survive in the presence of oxygen, however, the bacteria are quite resistant to most chemicals and even heat.5 Puncture wounds, which do not bleed very much and are protected by tissue and skin from direct exposure to oxygen, can be the perfect environment for tetanus bacteria to multiply and cause infection.6
  • The incubation period for tetanus infection, from time of exposure to appearance of the first symptoms, ranges from three days to three weeks.7 Initial symptoms include muscular stiffness of the jaw and neck, headache, seizures, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, fever, and chills. Complications include fractures, vocal cord spasms, impaired breathing, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, infections acquired in the hospital during the course of treatment, and death.8
  • Between 2009 and 2015, there were 197 reported cases of tetanus and 16 tetanus related deaths. All reported deaths occurred in persons over the age 55.  During this time period, persons with diabetes accounted for 13 percent of all reported tetanus cases and 25 percent of all tetanus related deaths. Intravenous drug users accounted for 6 percent of all cases.9
  • In 2015, there were 29 tetanus cases reported with two related deaths.10 Neonatal death from tetanus, which primarily occurs in underdeveloped countries where newborns are exposed to tetanus for unsanitary conditions during the birth process, especially when the umbilical cord is cut, is virtually nonexistent in the U.S.11

Tetanus Vaccine 

  • There are 12 different tetanus-containing vaccines licensed for use in the United States with 8 tetanus combination vaccines available for use in infants and children. These combination vaccines may contain one or more of the following vaccines: pertussis, diphtheria, hepatitis B, Hib, polio, and/ or polio. For adults, there are 4 tetanus combination vaccines available with 2 vaccines containing both tetanus and diphtheria toxoids approved for use in adults and children ages 7 years and older and 2 vaccines containing tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis approved for use in children and adults ages 10 years and older.12
  • According to the CDC, common tetanus vaccine reactions include injection-site redness, pain, and swelling at the site of the injection. Sometimes, however, the pain and swelling is significant and extends from the shoulder to the elbow. If this occurs, the CDC warns that additional tetanus toxoid vaccine doses should not be administered more frequently than every 10 years.13 Additional serious reported side effects following tetanus toxoid vaccination include anaphylaxis,14 15 brachial neuritis,16 Guillain-Barre Syndrome,17 18 acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM),19 arthritis20 21and myocarditis.22
  • As of March 1, 2019 there had been 5,861 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following vaccination with tetanus or tetanus-containing vaccines combined with additional vaccines, including 864 deaths and 4,997 serious injuries.
  • Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of January 30, 2019, there have been 182,116 adverse events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) in connection with tetanus and tetanus-containing vaccines combined with additional vaccines since 1990. Over 60 percent of tetanus vaccine-related adverse events occurring in children six years old and under. Of these tetanus-vaccine related adverse event reports to VAERS, 3,139 were deaths, with over 87 percent of the deaths occurring in children under six years of age. Reported tetanus vaccine adverse events reported to VAERS include redness, swelling and pain at the injection site; headache; fatigue, sore and swollen joints; muscle weakness; fever; chills; nausea; shock; neuropathy; convulsions; encephalopathy; paralysis; Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS); death;

NVIC “Quick Facts” is not a substitute for becoming fully informed about Tetanus and the Tetanus vaccine. NVIC recommends consumers read the more complete information following the "Quick Facts", as well as the vaccine manufacturer product information inserts, and speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child.

Food & Drug Administration (FDA) 

  • Infanrix, a 3 in 1 combination shot containing diphtheria, tetanus toxoids, and acellular pertussis vaccine for children under 7 years of age. It is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
  • Daptacel, a 3 in 1 combination shot containing diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine for children under 7 years of age. It is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Ltd.
  • Pediarix, a 5 in 1 combination shot containing diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis, hepatitis B recombinant and inactivated poliovirus vaccines for children under 7 years of age. It is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
  • Kinrix, a 4 in 1 combination vaccine containing diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, acellular pertussis and inactivated poliovirus vaccines for children 4 to 6 years old. It is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
  • Quadracel, a 4 in 1 combination vaccine containing diphtheria and tetanus toxoid, acellular pertussis and inactivated poliovirus vaccine for children 4 to 6 years old. It is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur
  • Pentacel, a 5 in 1 combination shot containing diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis, inactivated poliovirus and Haemophilus b conjugate (tetanus toxoid conjugate) vaccines for children under four years old. It is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Ltd.
  • VAXELIS, a 6 in 1 combination shot containing diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis, inactivated Poliovirus, Haemophilus b Conjugate (Meningococcal Protein Conjugate) and Hepatitis B (Recombinant) Vaccine for children 6 weeks through 4 years of age. It is manufactured by MCM Vaccine Company
  • Diphtheria and Tetanus Toxoids Adsorbed, a 2 in 1 combination shot containing diphtheria and tetanus toxoid vaccine for children under 7 years of age. It is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Inc
  • Adacel, a 3 in 1 combination booster shot containing tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis vaccine for those 10 years or older. It is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Ltd.
  • Boostrix, a 3 in 1 combination booster shot containing tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine for those 10 years or older. It is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
  • TDVAX, a 2 in 1 combination vaccine containing tetanus and diphtheria toxoid for those 7 years of age and older. It is manufactured by MassBiologics.
  • TENIVAC, a 2 in 1 combination vaccine containing tetanus and diphtheria toxoid for those 7 years of age and older. It is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Ltd

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Vaccine Reaction Symptoms & Ingredients

Our Ask 8, If You Vaccinate webpage contains vaccine reaction symptoms and more.

Search for Vaccine Reactions

NVIC hosts MedAlerts, a powerful VAERS database search engine. MedAlerts examines symptoms, reactions, vaccines, dates, places, and more.

Reporting a Vaccine Reaction

Since 1982 NVIC has operated a Vaccine Reaction Registry, which has served as a watchdog on VAERS. Reporting vaccine reactions to VAERS is the law. If your doctor will not report a reaction, you have the right to report a suspected vaccine reaction to VAERS.

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Tetanus and the Tetanus vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

« Return to Vaccines & Diseases Table of Contents

References

1 CDC Tetanus - Clostridium tetani Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

2 CDC Tetanus - Epidemiology Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

3 MedlinePlus Tetanus – Summary May 23, 2018

4 CDC Tetanus - Epidemiology Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

5 CDC Tetanus - Clostridium tetani Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

6 CDC Tetanus – Pathogenesis Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

7 CDC Tetanus - Clinical Features Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

8 CDC Symptoms and Complications Feb. 28, 2019

9 CDC Surveillance Manual – Chapter 16 – Tetanus – Background Nov. 17, 2017

10 Ibid

11 CDC Tetanus - Clinical Features Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

12 FDA Vaccines Licensed for Use in the United States Mar. 18, 2019

13 CDC Tetanus – Adverse Reactions Following Vaccination Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

14 Mayorga C, Torres MJ, Corzo JL et al. Immediate allergy to tetanus toxoid vaccine: determination of immunoglobulin E and immunoglobulin G antibodies to allergenic proteins. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2003 Feb;90(2):238-43.

15 Martín-Muñoz MF, Pereira MJ, Posadas S et al. Anaphylactic reaction to diphtheria-tetanus vaccine in a child: specific IgE/IgG determinations and cross-reactivity studies. Vaccine. 2002 Sep 10;20(27-28):3409-12.

16 Hamati-Haddad A, Fenichel GM. Brachial neuritis following routine childhood immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP): report of two cases and review of the literature. Pediatrics. 1997 Apr;99(4):602-3.

17 Bakshi R, Graves MC. Guillain-Barré syndrome after combined tetanus-diphtheria toxoid vaccination. J Neurol Sci. 1997 Apr 15;147(2):201-2.

18 Newton N Jr, Janati A. Guillain-Barré syndrome after vaccination with purified tetanus toxoid. South Med J. 1987 Aug;80(8):1053-4.

19 Hamidon BB, Raymond AA. Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) presenting with seizures secondary to anti-tetanus toxin vaccination. Med J Malaysia. 2003 Dec;58(5):780-2.

20 Jawad AS, Scott DG Immunisation triggering rheumatoid arthritis? Ann Rheum Dis. 1989 Feb; 48(2): 174.

21 Kaul A, Adler M, Alokaily F, Jawad A Recurrence of reactive arthritis after a booster dose of tetanus toxoid Ann Rheum Dis. 2002 Feb; 61(2): 185.

22 Amsel SG, Hanukoglu A, Fried D, Wolyvovics M Myocarditis after triple immunisation. Arch Dis Child. 1986 Apr; 61(4): 403–405.


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