What is the Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis (“DTaP”) Vaccine?
In 1949, the first DTP vaccine was licensed in the United States. This combined DTP vaccine was soon routinely used in the United States and continued to be used for decades. However, after numerous reports of adverse reactions to the DTP vaccine, DTaP was licensed in the 1990s. The DTaP vaccine replaced the whole-cell pertussis component of the vaccine with the less toxic acellular pertussis. While DTP was made using whole cells of the pertussis bacteria, DTaP is made using only small, purified portions of the bacteria. Since that time, the DTaP vaccine is routinely given to infants and young children in a series of five shots, at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and again at 4 to 6 years of age. DTaP vaccine is not licensed for adolescents, adults, or children 7 years of age and older.
Diphtheria is a bacterial upper respiratory tract infection which can cause a thick, gray-colored coating to form in the back of the throat. This membrane can block the airway leading to difficulty breathing. People suffering from diphtheria often have a swollen neck, sore throat, and fever.
Tetanus affects the nervous system causing painful muscle tightening, stiffness and contractions. While it can affect all of the muscles in the body, it is mostly known for tightening the muscles in the neck and jaw making it difficult to breath, talk or chew food. Other symptoms include painful body spasms, drooling, excessive sweating, fever, rapid heart rate, and elevated blood pressure.
Pertussis, like diphtheria is a bacterial respiratory tract infection that causes a thick mucus to form in the airways, leading to a persistent cough and difficulty breathing. The defining characteristic of pertussis is a high-pitched “whoop” noise during the inhalation after a cough – thus “whooping cough.” However, some people do not develop the “whoop,” and infants may not cough at all.
Who should receive the DTaP vaccine?
Infants and young children should receive a 5-dose series of the DTaP vaccine to be administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and again at 4 to 6 years of age. The DTaP vaccination is not licensed for adolescents, adults, or children 7 years of age and older. The DTaP vaccine is commonly combined into a multivalent vaccine that also contains IPV and Hib.
How is the DTaP vaccine administered?
Each dose of DTaP should be administered intramuscularly in the vastus lateralis for infants (and toddlers lacking adequate deltoid mass) and in the deltoid muscle (for toddlers and older children). The needle length should be appropriate to the child’s age and body mass.