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DTaP vaccine

DTaP vaccine is a "3-in-1" vaccine that protects against diphtheria , tetanus  (lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough). These diseases are serious and can be life-threatening.


Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are each caused by a bacteria.

DTaP vaccine is made from dead (inactivated) bacteria that cause the three diseases. The vaccine will not make a child sick from the three diseases it is protecting against.

After getting the vaccine, the body learns to attack any of the three bacteria if the child is exposed to them. As a result, the child is unlikely to get sick with any of the three diseases.


DTaP is one of the recommended childhood immunizations. Many states require proof that a child has received the vaccine before starting day care or preschool.

Children should get 5 doses (shots) of the vaccine. One dose should be received at each of the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15 through 18 months
  • 4 through 6 years

DTaP can be received as a shot by itself. Or it can be received as a shot that combines it with other vaccines:

The health care provider can tell you which vaccine is right for your child.

DTaP is not given to children 7 years or older. Two vaccines are available for children 7 years through adulthood. These vaccines are Tdap and Td . Because immunity to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis wears off, Tdap and Td are used as booster vaccines. The health care provider can tell you more about these vaccines.


  • A child who received a dose of any vaccine that has tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis in it and developed an allergy from the vaccine.
  • The health care provider will decide if a child who has nervous system problems, such as epilepsy, should receive any diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccine.
  • A child who is ill with something more severe than a cold or a has a fever should have the vaccination rescheduled until after the child is recovered.


  • Common side effects include pain and swelling at the injection site, mild fever, and irritability.
  • Severe side effects include allergic reaction to parts of the vaccine.

There is no proof that DTaP vaccine is linked to the development of autism.

No vaccine works all of the time. It is still possible, though unlikely, to get any of the three infections even after receiving all doses (shots) of DTaP.


  • You are not sure if your child should get the DTaP vaccine 
  • Serious symptoms develop after your child gets the vaccine 
  • You have questions or concerns about the vaccine 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. General recommendations on immunization: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR2011;60 (No. RR-2):1-64.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine safety and adverse events. Available at Accessed April 19, 2013.

DeStefano F, Price CS, Weintraub ES. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. J Pediatr. 2013;DOI 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.02.001.

Institute of Medicine. Immunization Safety Review Committee. Immunization safety review: vaccines and autism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004.

Orenstein WA, Atkinson WL. Immunization. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 17.

Updated: 4/5/2013

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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