DTaP Vaccine: Its Indication, Schedule & Side Effects

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One of the vaccines in the list of your baby’s standard immunization schedule is the DTaP vaccine. This is a must-have vaccine as it provides immunity against not one, but three deadly illnesses.

But what does DTaP stand for and when should a baby get this vaccine? Continue reading this MomJunction post to know everything about DTaP vaccine for infants.

What Is The DTaP Vaccine For?

DTaP stands for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis (1). As the name suggests, the vaccine protects the infant from three infectious diseases. Read on to know more about each of the illnesses that DTaP prevents:

  • Diphtheria: The bacterial infection primarily affects the nose and throat. The condition causes cold-like symptoms but can be far more severe and lead to problems in breathing. Complications include paralysis of muscles, heart failure, and even death (2).
  • Tetanus: Also called lockjaw, the bacterial infection is caused when bacteria enter the body through an open wound. The condition can cause painful muscle spasms, and the locking of the jaw muscles, making it impossible for the patient to eat. Tetanus results in death in up to 20% of the cases (3) (4).
  • Pertussis: It is also known as whooping cough. It is also known as acellular pertussis or whooping cough. It is a bacterial infection like the other two diseases prevented by the DTaP vaccine. Pertussis leads to a peculiar and violent fit of coughing with a distinctive “whooping” inhalation sound between coughs. Complications of the disease include pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death (5).

DTaP is a combination vaccine that protects your baby from three diseases, with a single immunization dose. DTaP is also known as DTPa or DPaT in some countries. DTaP is the new name of the same vaccine that was once called DTP or DtwP.

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[ Read: How To Reduce Pain After Vaccination In Babies ]

What Is In A DTaP Vaccine?

The formulation of DTaP vaccine varies as per the manufacturer. In general, the vaccine either contains toxins secreted by the respective bacteria or its antigens, which are specific molecules from the bacterial cell. The body mounts an immune system response towards the toxins or antigen, which results in the formation of antibodies that are retained by the body (6). There are no live bacteria in the vaccine.

Note that there are four variants of the DTaP vaccine, including the stand-alone DTaP vaccine. The other three variants combine other vaccines to make it a comprehensive immunization dose. The combinations include (7):

  • DTaP-IPV – DTaP and inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)
  • DTaP-Hep B-IPV – DTaP, IPV, and hepatitis B vaccine
  • DTaP-IPV-Hib – DTaP, IPV, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Influenza vaccine)

The above vaccines contain added antigens/toxins for their respective targeted diseases in addition to those found in the DTaP vaccine. Usually, the schedule for other vaccines also varies. If the schedule overlaps with DTaP, then your doctor can suggest a combination vaccine. There is no harm in taking DTaP with other vaccines. Vaccines for hepatitis B, influenza, and poliovirus are also available separately.

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Where Can You Get The DTaP Vaccine?

You can get a DTaP vaccine from your local healthcare providers such as the general physician or pediatrician. Vaccine availability and procurement may vary from country to country. The best source would be your baby’s pediatrician, who can get you the vaccine or guide you to the relevant sources.

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How Much Does A DTaP Vaccine Cost?

The price of DTaP varies extensively across countries. Different manufacturers of DTaP set different pricing, and the cost also differs for DTaP combination vaccines. The amount may also vary depending on where you purchase the vaccine.

For example, a standard DTaP vaccine costs $30 per dose in a private hospital, but you can get it for $17.61 per dose at the US government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlets (8). Check with your pediatrician or local government healthcare department about the cost of DTaP vaccine in your country.

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[ Read: Rotavirus Vaccine For Babies ]

When Should The Baby Have The DTaP Vaccine?

You have to follow a DTaP immunization schedule from the age of two months to six years. Your baby needs to get a total of five shots. Below is the schedule:

DTaP shot 12 months
DTaP shot 24 months
DTaP shot 36 months
DTaP shot 415-18 months
DTaP shot 54-6 years

Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (9)

Your child must get all the shots of the vaccine to get optimum immunity against the pathogens.

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What Are The Side Effects Of The DTaP Vaccine?

Like any other vaccine, the DTaP vaccine can also have side effects in babies. These side effects mostly present themselves after the fourth or fifth shot of the vaccine, which is when your baby is around 15-18 months and 4-6 years old. You may notice side effects a day or three after the vaccination. Side effects are divided into three categories viz. mild, moderate, and severe (1).

Mild side effects of the DTaP vaccine

  • Fussiness – 1 in 3 cases
  • Fever – 1 in 4 cases
  • Swelling and redness at the site of injection – 1 in 4 cases
  • Soreness at the site of injection with tenderness – 1 in 4 cases
  • Lethargy or poor appetite – 1 in 10 cases
  • Swelling of the entire arm or leg where they got the injection – 1 in 30 cases
  • Vomiting – 1 in 50 cases

[ Read: Treatment For Fever In Babies ]

Moderate side effects of the DTaP vaccine

  • Colic, for over three hours – 1 in 1,000 cases
  • Seizures – 1 in 14,000 cases
  • High fever over 105° F (40 ° C) – 1 in 16,000 cases

Severe side effects of DTaP vaccine

  • Severe allergic reaction – less than 1 in a million cases
  • Permanent brain damage, coma, and death – negligible chances

Mild side effects are common, but never fatal. Conditions like fever and poor appetite can be resolved with medications that you can get after doctor consultation.

Most side effects resolve within a few days. It is safe to get a DTaP vaccine than to get diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis. However, in some cases, the baby may not be eligible for the vaccine.

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When Is A Baby Not Given The DTaP Vaccine?

The baby should not get a DTaP shot in the following scenarios and conditions:

  • Baby with severe illness: If the baby is unwell, then it is best to wait till he/she gets better before getting a DTaP shot. So if the baby has an infection, a fever, and is lethargic due to some disease, then wait until the baby is completely cured before going for the vaccination.
  • The infant suffered a moderate or severe reaction to a DTaP shot: If the baby suffered a moderate to severe side effect to a DTaP shot, then he/she should never get another DTaP shot. These side effects include allergic reactions, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, or any other neurological disease due to the vaccine.
  • The baby has some neurological condition or genetic illness: Consult the doctor about DTaP vaccination if the baby has a neurological problem or suffers from a congenital disease.

In several of the above cases, the baby may be able to have diphtheria and tetanus vaccine (DT vaccine), but not the DTaP. Talk to your baby’s doctor to know whether or not the DT vaccine is suitable for the baby.

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[ Read: What Causes Bacterial Infections In Babies ]

How Long Does Immunity From DTaP Vaccine Last?

The DTaP vaccine is good for ten years. After that, you can get the child a booster dose ten years from the last DTaP shot, which is the DTaP shot five, which your child gets at 4-6 years of age (10). You will need booster shots at the gap of ten years for the rest of the life to maintain optimum immunity.

Next, we answer a few more questions that parents usually have on the vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions About DTaP For Babies

1. Can DTaP vaccine cause autism?

No. Vaccination never causes autism, and research proves there is no link between autism and vaccination (11). No ingredient in the DTaP vaccine can trigger or even increase the risk of autism among infants and children.

2. What is the difference between DTaP and Tdap vaccine?

DTaP vaccine is administered to infants and children not older than six years. Tdap vaccine is for kids aged 11 years and above, and adults (12). Both the vaccines work in the same way.

If your child got the DTaP shots, then there is no need of a Tdap dose unless he/she has a risk of exposure to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Your child can get two shots of Tdap at age 11 and 12 in case he missed out on any of the DTaP shots before the age of six (13).

3. Can I get DTaP vaccine during pregnancy?

Yes. When you are pregnant, you get the Tdap vaccine, which is similar to DTaP vaccine given to children. You can get this vaccine between the 27th week and 36th week of gestation (14). It provides some immunity to newborns for the first two months of their life, until they become eligible for the DTaP vaccine. Tdap is safe for the pregnant women and provides nearly complete immunity to the growing fetus (15).

4. Can my baby catch the illness even after DTaP vaccine?

Probably, but the chances are negligible. If the baby still gets the disease after vaccination, then his/her symptoms will be less severe, and the recovery will be quick. Experts state that DTaP provides 100% immunity against tetanus and 97% against diphtheria. In the case of pertussis, the immunity is 98% for within a year after the fifth shot.

Although immunity to pertussis may decline over a period, the vaccine still provides significant protection against disease, which makes it better than not getting vaccinated at all. In addition to the vaccine, you should also take precautions to prevent the illnesses.

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[ Read: Typhoid Symptoms In Babies ]

DTaP is one of the compulsory immunization shots that every infant should get as recommended. It is one vaccine that protects against three diseases, with a single immunization schedule. A combination with other vaccines also improves protection.

Have you got the DTaP vaccine for your baby yet? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.

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