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Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)

What you should know about tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis

What are tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)?

  • Tetanus (sometimes called “lockjaw”) infections are caused by certain bacteria that can be found in soil, dust, manure and elsewhere in the environment. Infections occur when these bacteria enter your body through broken skin.
  • Diphtheria is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract or skin that spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets or from touching infected sores or ulcers. 
  • Pertussis (or “whooping cough”) is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract. Some infections can lead to rapid, violent and uncontrolled coughing fits. Infants are most at risk for developing life-threatening complications.


Who should get the Tdap vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that:

  • Adolescents ages 11 to 12 years receive a Tdap vaccine as a single dose. 
  • Patients ages 13 to 18 who missed getting a Tdap vaccine by age 12 are also encouraged to receive a single Tdap dose. 
  • After their first dose, patients should continue to receive a Td or Tdap vaccine for routine booster immunization every 10 years. 
  • For recommendations on how to protect pregnant women and babies, read the CDC guidelines.

Read to know more about Tdap

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CVS Pharmacy® offers the Tdap vaccine. Schedule an appointment at the option that’s right for you.

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  • Vaccination performed by certified immunizer

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Get your Tdap vaccination at MinuteClinic®

  • More than 1,000 locations
  • Vaccinations performed by nurse practitioner, licensed practical nurse or physician associate
  • Private exam room setting

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The vaccines you need, all in one place™

We offer 15+ vaccines for you and your family,* including:

  • COVID-19
  • Pneumonia (pneumococcal)
  • Shingles
  • Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough)
  • And more 


Tdap is an acronym created from the initials of the diseases that the vaccine protects against: tetanus (T), diphtheria (d) and acellular (a) pertussis (p) or whooping cough. The Tdap vaccine is for use in adolescents and adults only. A different vaccine, DTaP, is used with infants and children for these conditions.

The Tdap vaccine can help prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). These are all very serious diseases for children, adolescents and adults.

  • Tetanus: Patients infected with tetanus often experience a painful tightening of their muscles and may be unable to open their mouth and swallow. They may also experience other symptoms such as seizures, fever, headache and muscle stiffness.
  • Diphtheria: An infection often leads to a feeling of weakness, a sore throat, fever and swollen glands. If the toxin gets into the blood stream, it can cause heart, nerve and kidney damage.
  • Pertussis (or “whooping cough”): In its early stages, whooping cough appears similar to the common cold. One to two weeks after the first symptoms start, people with whooping cough may develop paroxysms — rapid, violent and uncontrolled coughing fits. These coughing fits usually last 1 to 6 weeks but can last for up to 10 weeks. Coughing fits generally get worse and become more common as the illness continues.

Before receiving a Tdap vaccine, talk to your doctor if you:

  • Had an allergic reaction, severe pain or swelling after a previous shot of any vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, or whooping cough, or to a part of the vaccine
  • Have any severe, life-threatening allergies
  • Had a coma, decreased level of consciousness or prolonged seizures within seven days after a previous shot of any whooping cough vaccine
  • Have seizures or another nervous system problem
  • Have ever had Guillain-Barré syndrome (also called “GBS”)
  • Are moderately to severely ill
  • Side effects may include pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given; mild fever; headache; feeling tired; and nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomachache
  • As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death. Such reactions, however, are very rare.
  • If you are experiencing any serious reactions to the vaccine, please seek medical attention
  • *FOR VACCINATION AVAILABILITY: Vaccinations vary by state based on regulations. Age restrictions apply.