Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Vaccine

(DTaP Vaccine)

What Does This Vaccine Help Prevent?

This vaccine helps prevent 3 serious infections:

  • Diphtheria—can cause breathing problems, paralysis and heart problems
  • Tetanus—causes painful muscle tightening all over the body including the jaw (known as lockjaw)
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)—causes bad coughing spells that make breathing, eating, and drinking hard to do especially for infants and young children

All of these infections can lead to serious illnesses and deaths.

What Is the DTaP Vaccine?

This vaccine uses pieces of the germs. These pieces cannot cause an infection but will show the immune system what the germ looks like. If the bacteria enters the body, the immune system will be able to see it and attack before an infection starts.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?


The DTaP vaccine is often required before starting school. The regular schedule is to give the vaccine at:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15-18 months
  • 4-6 years

Catch-up Schedule

Talk to your doctor if you or your child have not been fully vaccinated. They will create a catch-up plan for you.

What Are the Risks Associated With the DTaP Vaccine?

Most people will not have any problems with this vaccine. The most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site. There may also be mild fever, tiredness, nausea, or vomiting. Rarely, a fever of more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 degrees Celsius) and seizures may occur.

Acetaminophen is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. In infants, the medicine may weaken the vaccine's effect. However, in children at risk for seizures, a fever-lowering medicine may be important to take. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with the doctor.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

Most should receive their vaccinations on schedule. However, vaccination risks may outweigh the benefits for some such as:

  • People that had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of DTaP
  • Anyone with a brain or nervous system disease within 7 days after a dose of DTaP

Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you have:

  • Epilepsy or other nervous system problems
  • Severe swelling or severe pain after a previous dose of any component of the vaccination to be given
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Moderate or severe illness—wait until you recover to get the vaccine

What Other Ways Can Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?

Prevention will depend on the infection:

  • Diphtheria—best prevention is vaccination.
  • Tetanus—care properly for wounds. This includes promptly cleaning wounds and seeing a doctor for proper care.
  • Pertussis—keep infants and other people at high risk away from infected people.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics


DTaP vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/dtap.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2020.

Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed October 12, 2020.

11/4/2011 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) in pregnant women and persons who have or anticipate having close contact with an infant aged < 12 months—Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(41):1424-1426.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC  Last Updated: 8/7/2020