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(Also called Lockjaw)

One side of the story

Tetanus is a serious illness caused by tetanus bacteria. The bacteria live in soil, saliva, dust and manure. The bacteria usually enter the body through a deep cut, like those you might get from cutting yourself with a knife or stepping on a nail.

The infection causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to “locking” of the jaw, which makes it impossible to open your mouth or swallow. If this happens, you could die of suffocation.

If you get tetanus, there is usually a long course of treatment. The tetanus vaccine can prevent tetanus but its protection does not last forever. Adults should get a tetanus shot, or booster, every 10 years. If you get a bad cut or burn, see your doctor–you may need a booster.

Doses of vaccine are given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, with booster doses at 4 years and 15-17 years. Immunisation against tetanus is achieved using combination vaccines. For information about immunisation in your area contact your State or Territory Health Department.

For technical information or information about vaccines, refer to the tetanus section of the Australian Immunisation Handbook https://www.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home .

The other side of the story

Tetanus is actually a rare disease and the likelihood of getting an adverse reaction to the vaccine is higher than the risk of getting the disease in developed countries.

Wound treatment is extremely important when treating potential Tetanus injuries. There have been many cases of Tetanus in fully vaccinated people so you should not rely on vaccination to protect you, even if you believe it will help.

The people most at risk of Tetanus are injecting drug users, diabetics, the elderly, unsanitary conditions, and unhygienic practices (ie babies in third world countries who have their umbilical cords cut with unsterilised instruments). A major contributor to the decline in Tetanus morbidity in developed countries is the near elimination of neonatal Tetanus.

There is evidence of Tetanus immunity in unvaccinated individuals that builds naturally over time.

Tetanus mortality rates had already declined significantly before the introduction of vaccine.

There has been very promising research done on high dose Vitamin C treatments neutralizing tetanus toxin, but more needs to be done.


Side effects of the DTaP vaccine

Mild Problems (Common)
* Fever (up to about 1 child in 4)
* Redness or swelling where the shot was given (up to about 1 child in 4)
* Soreness or tenderness where the shot was given (up to about 1 child in 4)

These problems occur more often after the 4th and 5th doses of the DTaP series than after earlier doses. Sometimes the 4th or 5th dose of DTaP vaccine is followed by swelling of the entire arm or leg in which the shot was given, for 1 to 7 days (up to about 1 child in 30).

Other mild problems include:
* Fussiness (up to about 1 child in 3)
*Tiredness or poor appetite (up to about 1 child in 10)
* Vomiting (up to about 1 child in 50)

The following problems generally occur 1 to 3 days after the shot.

Moderate Problems (Uncommon)
* Seizure (jerking or staring) (about 1 child out of 14,000)
* Non-stop crying, for 3 hours or more (up to about 1 child out of 1,000)
* High fever, 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (about 1 child out of 16,000)

Severe Problems (Rare)
Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)

Several other severe problems have been reported after DTaP vaccine. These include:
* Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
* Permanent brain damage.

New concepts on tetanus immunization: naturally acquired immunity.

Vitamin C for preventing and treating tetanus.

A case of clinical tetanus in a patient with protective antitetanus antibody level.

Tetanus in an immunized, healthy adult.

Case report of tetanus in an immunized, healthy adult and no point of entry.

Tetanus of immunized children.

Immunisation does not rule out tetanus

Neonatal tetanus despite protective serum antitoxin concentration.

Elevated antitoxin titers in a man with generalized tetanus.

Severe tetanus in immunized patients with high anti-tetanus titers.

Tetanus Surveillance — United States, 2001–2008

These are the vaccines used for Tetanus in Australia
Infanrix DTPa vaccine is a sterile suspension which contains diphtheria toxoid, tetanus toxoid and three purified antigens of Bordetella pertussis pertussis toxoid (PT), filamentous haemagglutinin (FHA) and pertactin (PRN)] adsorbed onto aluminium hydroxide.
Tripacel vaccine – Component Pertussis Vaccine Combined with Diphtheria and Tetanus Toxoids Adsorbed
Infanrix hexa Combined Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis (DTPa), Hepatitis B, Poliovirus and
Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine
Boostrix vaccine – Combined diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (dTpa) vaccine
Infanrix IPV vaccine is a combined diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis (DTPa) and inactivated poliovirus vaccine.
Quadracel Pertussis Vaccine-Acellular and Diphtheria and Tetanus Toxoids (Adsorbed) Combined with
Inactivated Poliovirus Types 1, 2 and 3 (MRC-5 Cell)


The AVN recommends that you gather all the information you can and not rely solely on the information provided on our website, talk to health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child.

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