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This triple antigen vaccine is meant to protect against 3 diseases – diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (or whooping cough). Whilst we are currently in the sixth consecutive year of a record breaking epidemic of whooping cough (despite the highest ever level of whooping cough vaccination), both diphtheria and tetanus are extremely rare in children – especially in Australia. Recently, it has been combined with other vaccines into a 4-in-one, 5-in-one and even 7-in-one shot. It is now more difficult to find the three-in-one shot in Australia though it is still available.

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The DTPa (it is sometimes written as DPaT) is given as part of the Australian childhood vaccination schedule at: 2, 4, 6 and 18 months of age, then again at 4 years of age or just before a child starts school. An adult triple antigen shot, Boostrix, was licensed in Australia in 2005 and is recommended for all adults, especially those who are in close contact with infants under 1 year of age.

Historically, DTP was the most controversial of all childhood vaccines. The old ‘whole cell’ shot was associated with a large number of serious side-effects including a fairly high risk of seizures and, more rarely, permanent brain damage and death. The newer, purportedly safer ‘acellular’ shot has also been linked with a risk of seizures and brain damage and has had its effectiveness questioned since very high levels of vaccination in children (over 95% as of 2008 in Australia) have not led to a decline in whooping cough. Instead, we now have more pertussis in children then at any time since the vaccine was introduced to the childhood schedule in 1953. According to the government, 75% of all children aged 0-4 who get whooping cough are fully vaccinated against it with a further 14% being partially vaccinated. (Whooping Cough in Australian Children – How Many Were Vaccinated?)

This experience is repeated around the world wherever the DTPa vaccine is used. Incidence is up sharply and deaths in infants are also on the rise.

All three of the illnesses in this vaccine are bacterial in nature. Other bacterial vaccines in the childhood vaccination schedule include Hib (Haemphilus Influenzae type B), Meningococcal, and Pneumococcal.

The pertussis or whooping cough vaccine has been cited as the cause of a great deal of suffering and death since the report by Madsen et al (J Am Med Assoc-1933-MADSEN-187-8). Despite the more than 80 years of controversy since that time, this vaccine continued to be used. In 1991, the Institute of Medicine in the United States commissioned a study on the Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines which contains a great deal of information on the known side effects to these shots.

The Introduction of Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis and Oral Polio Vaccine Among Young Infants in an Urban African Community: A Natural Experiment

  • When DTP and OPV were introduced in Guinea-Bissau in 1981, allocation by birthday resulted in a natural experiment of being vaccinated early or late.
    Between 3 and 5 months of age, children who received DTP and OPV early had 5-fold higher mortality than still unvaccinated children.
  • In the only two studies of the introduction of DTP and OPV, co-administration of OPV with DTP may have reduced the negative effects of DTP.

Few studies have examined what happened to child survival when DTP and OPV were introduced in low-income countries. These vaccines were introduced in 1981 in an urban community in Guinea-Bissau from 3 months of age in connection with 3-monthly weighing sessions. Children were therefore allocated by birthday to receive vaccines early or late between 3 and 5 months of age. In this natural experiment vaccinated children had 5-fold higher mortality than not-yet-DTP-vaccinated children. DTP-only vaccinations were associated with higher mortality than DTP + OPV vaccinations. Hence, DTP may be associated with a negative effect on child survival.


All whole cell DTP vaccines contain mercury in the form of Thiomersal (or Thimerosal in the US and some other countries). This is a mercury-based preservative which has never been properly tested for safety. Mercury is one of the most toxic (poisonous) substances known to man and has been linked with forms of brain damage including Autism.

Despite claims that the newer, acellular DTPa is free of mercury from thiomersal, independent laboratory testing has shown that some versions of this shot still contain this substance. (Mercury in vaccines from the Australian childhood immunization program schedule; Austin DW,Shandley KAPalombo EA.J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2010;73(10):637-40. https://www.vaccineinjury.info/news/427-mercury-in-vaccines.html) Mercury is a neurotoxin (it can kill brain cells and cells within the central nervous system) is associated with autistic and behavioural disorders and has also been causally linked with the development of severe allergies and atopy (asthma, eczema, food and environmental allergies).

It is also now known not to target the most common strains of Pertussis and those who do get the strain that are targeted by the vaccine can become asymptomatic transmitters of Pertussis. As a result the theory of “cocooning” which is where family members are vaccinated with the Pertussis vaccine has now been debunked as it does not protect unvaccinated babies.


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