What’s Tdap!?

Tdap vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects older children and adults against three life-threatening diseases:  tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.  The vaccine helps your immune system to recognize and fight the bacteria that cause these diseases.  

Over the years, vaccinations have led to the elimination, containment and control of diseases and this is why tetanus and diphtheria are much rarer.  Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is the disease that people recognize the most as there are still outbreaks as it continues to spread.  

More about the vaccine…

Tdap is not a live vaccine and therefore cannot cause these diseases.  This vaccine is given by needle. 

Every vaccine comes with a chance of side effects, and the Tdap vaccine is no exception.  Common side effects to the vaccine include soreness, redness, swelling at the injection site.  Some people report a fever, drowsiness, dizziness or an upset stomach.  Fortunately, the side effects reported are generally mild, only last a day or two and go away on there own.  The healthcare provider administering the injection will have you wait around for 15 minutes or so after as they will want to monitor for the potential of a more serious complication of an allergic reaction.  Severe problems, as such an allergic reaction, are extremely rare.

What is tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis anyways!?

The T in Tdap stands for tetanus, D for diphtheria and aP is for acellular pertussis.


Tetanus is often referred to as lockjaw because it is caused by a bacteria that creates tightening of the jaw muscles.  The tightening of muscles in the head and neck can prevent the ability to chew and swallow and can also lead to breathing problems.  Tetanus infections can be very serious and often life-threatening if breathing muscles are affected.  Tetanus does not spread from person to person, the bacteria is usually found in soil, dust and manure and can get into the body through breaks in the skin.  


Diphtheria is caused by a bacterium that typically affects the respiratory system by making a thick covering in the back of the nose and throat.  Diphtheria can start as weakness, sore throat, mild fever and swollen glands in the neck but can lead to difficulty breathing, paralysis, heart failure and even death.  Diphtheria is spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing, or sharing food or drinks.


Pertussis or whooping cough is a bacterial infection that results in long coughing spells that make it hard for infants and children to eat, drink and even breathe.  It can result in pneumonia, brain damage, seizures and death especially in infants.  Tdap helps protect infants who are too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough.  Pertussis is highly contagious and can easily spread by coughing or sneezing or face-to-face contact.  Parents, siblings and grandparents are often the source of whooping cough in infants.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy between 27-32 weeks gestation.  Pregnant women should get the vaccine to protect their newborn infant from pertussis.  The CDC also recommends caregivers of infants under 1 year of age to make sure their Tdap vaccinations are up to date.

That’s Tdap but what’s DTaP and Td!?

DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) is the vaccine which is given to infants and children in 5 doses starting at 2 months of age and given up until 4-6 years.  

Tdap is only for those over 7 years of age to increase the protection that your child(ren) should already have from routine childhood immunizations.  Tdap is first given to preteen children and also older teens and adults who haven’t had a booster with pertussis coverage.  Protection from these diseases naturally wears off over time, so booster vaccines are important to keep up the immunity and are recommended every 10 years to stay protected from these diseases.  

Td is a booster vaccine for just tetanus and diphtheria.


Getting your Tdap vaccine is an important part of maintaining your health as well as the health of your family, especially infants.  It is much safer to get the vaccine then any of these diseases. 

In Manitoba, the Tdap vaccine is free of charge as it is included in our immunization program.  Recent research by the Public Health agency of Canada showed a significant number of postpartum women in Canada had not been vaccinated for pertussis during their pregnancy.  The main reason given for not being vaccinated was not being aware that pertussis vaccination was recommended.  

The impact of the pandemic on the rate of pertussis vaccinations in pregnancy is not yet known, but they are anticipating a rebound of non-covid respiratory illnesses in the post-pandemic period.  Unfortunately, we have already seen this to be the case with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).  

Please reach out to your healthcare provider to see about the immunization program for where you live and to see if your vaccinations are up to date.  If you are interested in learning what else you can expect during your pregnancy, please reach out to a Mama Coach in your area for a prenatal class!

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