In school you will be offered a Tdap vaccine. This shot provides protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. You might remember having been vaccinated against these diseases when you were younger and might be wondering why you need these vaccines again. The reason is, as you get older the protection you received from these earlier vaccines starts to wear off. That’s why you need a “booster” shot now. A booster shot is an additional dose of vaccine that strengthens or “boosts” the immune system to give better protection against disease.
Let’s find out a bit more about each of the diseases this vaccine protects against.
Tetanus is caused by bacteria found in dirt, dust and soil. It is different from other vaccine-preventable diseases because it doesn’t spread from person to person. A person usually gets tetanus when the bacteria enter the skin through a cut or scrape. When the bacteria enter the body they produce a poison that can cause painful tightening of muscles all over the body (muscle spasms). It is very serious if the breathing muscles are affected.
Up to 1 in 5 people who get tetanus may die.
Diphtheria is a serious infection of the nose and throat caused by diphtheria bacteria. The bacteria are spread through the air by people sneezing or coughing, and by direct skin-to-skin contact. The disease can result in very serious breathing problems. It can also cause heart failure and paralysis.
About 1 in 10 people who get diphtheria may die.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a serious infection of the airways caused by pertussis bacteria. Pertussis can cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or death. These complications are seen most often in infants. The bacteria are easily spread by coughing, sneezing, or close face-to-face contact. Pertussis can cause severe coughing that often ends with a whooping sound before the next breath. This cough can last several months.
Tetanus and diphtheria are now rarely seen in Canada. This is because people are vaccinated against these diseases. But the bacteria that cause these diseases still exist. This is why we need to keep vaccinating against them. If we stop, these diseases will come back and many people will get sick and die.
Watch this great video from Australia to learn more about the Tdap vaccine and the diseases it protects against. Then take the quiz to test your knowledge and earn vaccines!
Just before watching the video there are some important things to know:
- In Canada we use the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.
- You will be given the Tdap vaccine in grade 6, 7, 8 or 9 depending on where you live in Canada.
- The vaccine may still be free if you missed getting the vaccine in school. Check with your doctor or public health nurse.