What Is the Tetanus Vaccine?
When you were a kid, you may have received a Tetanus vaccine shot. The tetanus vaccine is part of the National Childhood Vaccine Program, and was introduced in the late 1970s. There are several different versions of the vaccine; Tetanus Tdap (for adults) is just one of them. There is also the Tetanus vaccine (TDV), which is only available to military personnel, doctors, and anyone else who is working with a huge number of people. Here’s more about the Tetanus vaccine.
The symptoms of tetanus are not easy to identify, but they can be extremely painful. In addition to excruciating pain, there is a high fever and spasms of muscles in the arm. These symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from an injury.
Symptoms of tetanus may include:
- trouble breathing
- extreme pain in the upper body
- loss of consciousness
Children, especially infants, may not show any symptoms for several days. Adults may show symptoms within hours or days of infection. Tetanus develops slowly over time, so immediate treatment is required to prevent complications, including death.
Tetanus Can Come Back After Initial Treatment
The good news is that tetanus can be treated very effectively with antibiotic injections. A person who has received a tetanus injection can no longer contract tetanus. But it does take some time for the body to naturally heal the wound. The reaction to the tetanus infection can also have some lingering effects.
Harms of Tetanus
Infections with tetanus can cause health complications. Although the chances of harm are extremely low, it is still a good idea to take precautions to prevent the chance of harm to you and your family. This can include using the affected arm to prevent the spread of the infection, especially if you have other children who have not received their shots.
Prevention of tetanus
There is no vaccine against tetanus, but there are effective vaccines that can prevent tetanus. The two most effective vaccines are the Td and Tdap. The Td is recommended for people in one of the areas that experience a lot of exposure to tetanus. The Tdap is the booster vaccine that protects against tetanus and diphtheria, which are extremely common in many areas.
How the Shot is Preventing an Infection
The Td vaccine is an immunoglobulin shot, which is made up of a serum from one type of antigens that can contain several different bacteria. These are called tetanus antigens. The immune system has evolved over millions of years to recognize these bacteria and kick into action to prevent an infection.
These antibodies in the vaccine recognize these bacteria and form a shield in the body. This prevents the human body from responding to the toxin from any of the bacteria. This can reduce the amount of damage to the nervous system. This can mean a lot of peace of mind for those with a tetanus infection.
Other Considerations When It Comes to Vaccines
There are some other facts that can be helpful when deciding whether or not to get the Tdap. One is that if you have ever had a tetanus shot within the last 10 years you are considered immune to tetanus. Your immune system has probably developed immunity from previous rounds of tetanus vaccines.
If you have been vaccinated against tetanus within the last 10 years, then you are not considered immune. But you will still have a higher risk of a tetanus infection. Another consideration is the amount of time between the last tetanus shot and the next. Usually the gap between the time you received the shot and the next one is about 10 years. This will also increase your risk of tetanus infection.
The CDC recommends the Tdap for anyone who is in contact with an infected person. If you are in the military, or in a working situation in which you are in a lot of contact with people, it is a good idea to get the Tdap. Also, people living in a more rural area of the United States are at a higher risk of contracting tetanus. This is because they may have a shorter immunity period from previous vaccinations.
If you have not had a tetanus shot, then there are some options for you. A person can receive the vaccine by injection or through a series of injections. If you receive the Tdap injection you will have to go to a doctor or nurse practitioner to get it. Your doctor will need to order the shot from a pharmacy.
A Tdap injection costs about $15. If you receive the vaccine through the mail, then you will receive a receipt and will need to return the vaccine before you are done with it.
Tetanus Vaccine Types and Schedules
Tetanus vaccines can be divided into three distinct categories: live-attenuated, inactivated, and toxoid.
Live-attenuated tetanus vaccines are combined vaccines produced from live but weakened forms of a diphtheria toxin protein called tetanus toxoid. This vaccine has been in use since the 1950s. Tetanus toxoid is a protein that when introduced to the human body, produces very large antibodies that kill cell and tissue invasion of the diphtheria toxin.
Inactivated vaccines that contain some of the same components as live-attenuated tetanus vaccines have a portion of the live tetanus toxoid virus that is enclosed in a chemical matrix. This matrix prevents the live virus from being released when the vaccine is produced, and also protects the child’s body from producing large amounts of tetanus toxin in the initial process of the vaccine. This type of vaccine is only used in cases in which a live virus is not available.
The first step in making a toxoid-tetanus vaccine is to produce a weakened tetanus toxoid virus with characteristics that allow the vaccine to be given safely. If the vaccine has not been made correctly, then the person could be severely sickened from the vaccine. The weakened virus is then combined with a suspension of weakened bacteria.
The resulting vaccine is divided into two parts, a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to create antibodies that are not produced from the normal tetanus toxoid, and a vaccine that contains the weakened tetanus toxoid as well as the bacterium.
Toxoid-tetanus vaccine is given as three shots: the first two in the arms, and the third in the abdomen. The patient receives the first shot, usually given in the arm, six to eight weeks before the third shot is given. This system is commonly referred to as “surrogate prevention,” in which the child receives a small amount of tetanus toxoid in the first shot. The injection of the weakened tetanus toxoid in the first shot produces antibodies that inhibit the development of tetanus toxins in the muscles and nerve cells in the intestine. The weakened tetanus toxoid in the second and third shots does not produce tetanus toxins. However, if the body still reacts to the toxins produced by the first shot, then the patient develops tetanus, usually within 36 hours. Tetanus is a serious disease that can be fatal in 15 percent of cases.
Tetanus toxoid injection
The tetanus toxoid injection (sometimes called the Q-tip) is typically given by taking a sterile syringe, attaching a sterile needle to the end of it, then inserting a sterile Q-tip, which is sized to fit into the wound. The needles are disposable and are not attached to the ends of the Q-tip. The procedure of taking the syringe, attaching the needle, inserting the syringe, and finally pulling the tip out with a satisfying “pop” has become a part of children’s lives. But such a process comes at a price. The delivery of the toxin into the nerve and muscle cells of the gut, neck, and lungs, and then the release of the toxin, can damage the gastrointestinal tract in small children. In addition, the release of the toxin can cause severe bruising, a swollen lip, or skin burns.
Typical administration time is four to eight hours, so it takes much time and effort to prepare for the administration. This procedure should only be given to children who are not yet immunized.
Deaths resulting from vaccine are rare, and fatalities from tetanus are even rarer, but it is not wise to assume that these rare events are somehow insignificant. Because the tetanus toxoid is so potent and the toxin can go all the way through the entire body and to the heart, even in small doses, it is not safe to administer the vaccine to children whose age is greater than six months.
The new tetanus vaccines will have substantially reduced dosage and the risk of potential injury from the tetanus toxoid. (The increased toxicity of the newer vaccine would not be enough to cause a death, but still not a good idea for children less than six months of age, who have never been vaccinated.)
The vaccine administration in this country has always followed the approach outlined in the Australian child-vaccine injury report, and the guidelines for tetanus have been outlined in international safety guidelines as well.
Who Should Not Get the Tetanus Vaccine?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children aged one month or older get vaccinated against tetanus. The first tetanus booster vaccine has been provided to older children since the 1960s, and since 2006 children have been required to get a second booster after three years.
But for the many children in the United States who have not had a booster shot, there is concern about whether or not it is safe for them to receive the tetanus vaccine. These children may be at a higher risk of contracting tetanus, particularly if they live in an environment where people are not immunized against tetanus, which includes most of the developing world.
Recent CDC guidelines
According to the most recent CDC guidelines, the first booster dose was recommended for children under age two and children aged two to six. By age eight, they were recommended to get a second dose, along with their child’s first MMR vaccine, in the following order: MMR, Tdap and Td. If a child received all four of these vaccines at the recommended age, and was up-to-date on their vaccines, they are considered protected from tetanus.
Tetanus booster shots
This new study adds to the debate by suggesting that there is a large swath of the population who may be at a higher risk of developing tetanus because they have never received a tetanus vaccine booster. Since many of these unvaccinated individuals live in developing countries, the researchers suggest that this data may have significant health consequences for the populations of low-income countries around the world.
“Tetanus is a very dangerous disease because it can lead to limb loss and death if left untreated,” says Naja Walawalkar, M.D., lead author of the study. “We were motivated to study tetanus because this vaccine is a highly effective, low-cost, safe vaccine that can help save thousands of lives every year, but we need to ensure that all who need it are getting vaccinated.”
Those who did not get the tetanus booster shots at age two may be more at risk for developing tetanus because they may not have been immunized in the first place. Because this was a case-control study, researchers were not able to find any data on the vaccination status of individuals when they were born, but they were able to determine that the unvaccinated children were those who were born before the tetanus vaccine was introduced.
If children have not received a tetanus vaccine shot before their first birthday, they may develop tetanus later in life, even if they were born after the vaccine became available. The CDC recommends that those at high risk get a second booster shot after three years to prevent that risk.
Tetanus Vaccine Side Effects
Like other vaccines, tetanus vaccine can cause serious side effects, including Guillain Barre Syndrome, encephalitis (brain inflammation), transient global amnesia, lethargy, headache, light sensitivity, skin eruptions, and other less serious but annoying effects.
Healthy people exposed to the tetanus bacteria do not develop immunity to it. If they get a tetanus infection from a puncture wound, their body begins the process of producing immunity in response to the infection. This process usually takes about 10 days. Tetanus vaccines are given in two doses. One dose in the arm and a second one 6 months later.
To make sure your body has all the necessary antibodies, you need to have two doses of the tetanus vaccine. The first one protects you against tetanus but not the kind that can cause all the nasty side effects.