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Who Should Get the Tdap Vaccine?

Every year, thousands of Americans suffer from diseases that could be prevented. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends immunization as the best line of defense against contagious, preventable diseases like tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

To ensure the vaccines you and your family receive are safe and effective, the CDC has created immunization schedules that can help you – along with your healthcare provider – determine the vaccines you should get and when.

The recommendations for the Tdap vaccine vary depending on your age, your health and what related shots you’ve previously received.

What Is the Tdap Vaccine?

The Tdap vaccine is a booster shot for the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine infants and children receive during childhood. It became available in 2005 after studies indicated that immunity from pertussis or whooping cough begins to weaken five–ten years after it is first administered.

The Tdap vaccine not only protects adults and those they come in contact with from whooping cough, it can also help protect against tetanus and diphtheria – which, although less common, are serious diseases.

Bacterial Infections Prevented by the Tdap Vaccine

Tetanus (Lockjaw)

What it causes: Painful muscle spasms, specifically of the jaw and neck, that interfere with your ability to open your mouth or swallow and can cause difficulty breathing.  Even after advanced treatments, tetanus still kills 1 out of 10 people who are infected.

How it spreads: Bacteria enters the body through exposed skin like cuts, scratches or wounds.


What it causes: A thick coating forms in the back of your throat, leading to breathing difficulties, heart failure, paralysis, and even death. This coating is known as laryngeal diphtheria a serious respiratory condition, typically accompanied with a "barking" cough.

How it spreads: Secretions from a cough or sneeze are exchanged when in close contact with an infected person.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

What it causes: Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. People, especially small children, typically develop a violent, painful and uncontrollable cough. This causes severe swelling of the throat, which can often make it difficult to breathe. As a result, it can lead to vomiting, disturbed sleep, weight loss, and rib fractures. Serious cases can cause pneumonia, brain damage, heart failure, and death.

How it spreads: Secretions from a cough or sneeze are exchanged when you’re in close contact with an infected person.

Should I Get Vaccinated?

Reports show that before vaccinating adults against these bacterial infections, there were hundreds of thousands of cases each year. With vaccination, however, the U.S. has cut down on cases of tetanus and diphtheria by 99% and pertussis by 80%.

Whether you should get a Tdap shot depends on several factors, according to guidelines from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Let’s take a look at some unique scenarios that can help when you’re determining if the shot is necessary or not.

For the full report on if Tdap is recommended for you, visit the CDC website.

Scenario #1 – Whooping Cough Outbreak

Your community is concerned about an outbreak of whooping cough, and you wonder whether your 9-year-old should receive the Tdap shot.

Because all states require DTaP for entry into elementary school, chances are your child received the 5-dose series of DTaP at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15–18 months, and 4–6 years. If you can’t remember whether your child completed all 5 shots, or if you don’t have access to your child’s immunization records, the ACIP recommends anyone between the ages of 7–10 be given a single dose of Tdap for adequate protection from whooping cough.

Read our vaccine guide for more information on school immunizations!

Scenario #2 – Typical Adolescent

Your 11-year-old is visiting the doctor for his or her annual checkup. She recommends that your child receive the Tdap shot but, since your child already got the required 5 doses of DTaP before age 7, is it necessary?

It’s routine for 11–12-year-olds to be given Tdap as a booster vaccine for DTaP. That’s because protection against whooping cough with the DTaP vaccine wears off over time. With the 1997 switch from whole-cell pertussis vaccines (DTaP) to acellular pertussis vaccines (DTaP), there was a spike in the number of cases of whooping cough among adolescents and school-age children. An additional pertussis booster in Tdap helps prevent instances of pertussis.

Scenario #3 – Pregnant Mom

You’re expecting your second child in 10 weeks, and your OB/GYN offers you the Tdap vaccination. You know you already had the shot when you were pregnant with your first child, and you wonder whether you should get it again.

Prenatal care best practices – not only from the CDC but also from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse-Midwives – recommend that pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine in their third trimester (between 27–36 weeks) with every pregnancy. Whooping cough is particularly deadly for babies, and newborns are unable to receive the DTaP vaccine themselves until they’re 2 months old.

In addition, the number of antibodies you received during your last pregnancy decreases with time. So, in order to give your baby the greatest number of protective antibodies, be sure to get vaccinated during each pregnancy. 

Scenario #4 – Healthcare Professional

You just started working at the local hospital. You got the Tdap shot as an adolescent, but a lot of your coworkers are getting the vaccine. Do you need it? 

Since the Tdap vaccine was released in 2005, the ACIP has recommended that all healthcare professionals, regardless of their age, receive a single dose of Tdap if they haven’t already. Unless there is an increased risk of whooping cough at the hospital you work at, you would only need to make sure you received your tetanus-diphtheria (or Td) booster shot every 10 years.

Scenario #5 – New Grandparent

Your daughter is having a baby in a couple months. She tells you that she’s received the Tdap vaccine to protect her newborn against whooping cough, and she thinks you should get the vaccine too. You wonder if it’s really necessary.

The ACIP recommends that any unvaccinated adults be vaccinated if they’re going to be in close contact with an infant. Not only does this shot protect your unborn grandchild, it also protects you from whooping cough and the serious symptoms that can last up to 10 weeks. Since it takes up to 2 weeks for the maximum number of antibodies to be produced, you should be sure to get vaccinated well before your grandchild arrives.

Scenario #6 – Tetanus Scare

You’re out in the yard doing some work, and you accidently cut your hand. Because the cut is deep, you’re worried about it getting infected, and you haven’t gotten a Td booster shot since your Tdap vaccine during adolescence.

To ensure you don’t contract tetanus, it’s important you get a Td shot as soon as possible. If tetanus bacteria get into your tissues, they can start to create toxins that interfere with your nervous system. Antibodies in a Td shot can help to control or reverse the effects of the toxin, should it enter your bloodstream.

If you’ve never had the Tdap shot, however, this should be taken in place of the Td vaccine. Then, at your next 10-year interval, you can get the Td booster shot for continued protection from tetanus. 

Scenario #7 – Adverse Reaction to DTaP

When you were little and received a dose of the DTaP vaccine, you had a severe allergic reaction. Should you get Tdap as an adult?

Since the ingredients in the Tdap shot are similar to those in the DTaP shot, ACIP doesn’t recommend you get the Tdap vaccine. In fact, you should tell anyone who attempts to give you or your child the vaccine about severe allergies.

You should also not get the vaccine if you’ve been in a coma or long, repeated seizure within 7 days of a previous dose of either DTaP or Tdap, unless another cause for these symptoms was discovered. Talk to your doctor if you have seizures, Guillain-Barré Syndrome (or GBS), or ever had severe pain or swelling with any vaccine containing tetanus, diphtheria or pertussis.

What's the Difference Between DTaP and Tdap?

Both vaccines contain inactivated forms of a bacterial toxin that cause diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

DTaP is approved for children under age 7. Tdap, which has a reduced dose of the diphtheria and pertussis vaccines, is approved for adolescents starting at age 11. Adult booster shots are approved for those individuals ages 19 to 64.

What Side Effects Can I Expect from the Tdap Vaccine?

Like with any vaccine, Tdap comes with a chance of side effects. However, most of those reported are generally mild and go away on their own within a couple days.

Mild and Moderate Problems After Tdap Shot

  • Sore arm where the shot was given
  • Redness or swelling at the shot site
  • Mild fever or headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomachache
  • Chills, body aches or sore joints
  • Rash or swollen glands (uncommon)

Severe Problems After Tdap Shot

  • Severe swelling, pain or bleeding in the arm where the shot was given
  • Very high fever
  • Signs of an allergic reaction within a few minutes to a few hours after receiving the vaccination (i.e., hives, swelling of the face or throat, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, etc.)

Where Can I Receive Immunizations?

GoHealth Urgent Care centers across the country offer the Tdap vaccination. Our goal is to make it convenient and easy for members of your family to receive the immunizations they need – and fast.

Plus, we partner with several insurance companies to ensure you receive the most affordable prices for the high-quality service you’ll receive during your visit. Same-day cash rates are also available, if you don’t currently have health insurance.

You can view wait times and save your spot online – but walk-in appointments are always welcome at a GoHealth Urgent Care Center in your neighborhood.

Use the widget below to find the closest location to you.

Quick Reference Guide for Tdap

If you think tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis are diseases from the past century...Think again.

These diseases, especially whooping cough, have unfortunately seen a resurgence in recent years. For your vaccine safety, it’s important to know the vaccine recommendations for Tdap.

Here’s a quick Tdap guide for your reference:

  • Adolescents – It’s best practice that 11 and 12-year-olds get the Tdap shot during their annual checkup as a booster for the 5-series DTaP shots they received as a child.
  • Pregnant Women – Babies cannot receive a birth dose of DTaP until they’re 2 months old, so expectant moms should receive the Tdap shot during their third trimester (weeks 27–36). Don’t worry: APIC has confirmed the vaccine is safe during pregnancy!
  • Individuals in Close Contact with Newborns – Besides pregnant women, anyone who has close contact with babies – including grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as healthcare workers – should receive a shot of Tdap if they haven’t already received it.
  • Anyone Who Hasn’t Received the Vaccine – If you haven’t received a Tdap shot since it became available in 2005, you should get immunized to ensure you and those around you don’t get whooping cough.

Support the health and wellness of you and your family with the most up-to-date information on Tdap vaccines from the online GoHealth Urgent Care Health Library  – and sleep well at night, knowing you are protected!


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