DTaP vaccine (Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis)

The DTaP vaccine is used for the prevention of serious infectious diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).

The vaccine contains inactivated components of all three germs, which do not cause the disease but are capable of triggering the body's defences.

There are two different formulations of this vaccine:

  • the paediatric form (DTaP) which is administered up to 6 years of age;
  • the adult form (dTpa) which is administered after the age of 7, in which the inactivated components for diphtheria and pertussis are present in a reduced form.

In infants, a single vaccine is administered which protects against six diseases (hexavalent), including diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. It is as effective and safe a vaccine as the single vaccines and provides protection for the child with a single injection. The vaccine is administered intramuscularly in the upper thigh.

When to vaccinate

The current vaccination schedule includes 3 doses of DTaP within the hexavalent vaccine:

  • the first dose is given in the 3rd month of life;
  • the second in the 5th month of life;
  • the third between the 11th and 13th month of life.

A booster dose for Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (associated with anti-polio components) is given in the sixth year of life and another at 14 years of age.

For adequate protection, a booster for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (dTpa) is recommended every 10 years for adults.

Who should not be vaccinated

Children who have had a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine and/or those who have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

Parents should inform the doctor overseeing the vaccination of:

  • any allergic episodes that the child has had;
  • diseases of the central nervous system arising within 7 days of administration of the vaccine;
  • uninterrupted crying for more than 3 hours after a dose of DTaP;
  • fever over 40.5 ° C after a dose of DTaP;
  • convulsions or collapse after a dose of DTaP.

When to postpone vaccination

Children with mild illnesses (such as a cold) can be safely vaccinated. If, on the other hand, they have moderate or severe illnesses, it is advisable to delay vaccination until after their recovery.

Vaccination risks

Most children have only mild reactions after vaccination. The most frequent event is fever, which can occur in about one third of children. Local reactions occur in 20% of cases and include pain, redness and swelling at the injection site. These effects generally appear within 48 hours of vaccination and last up to a couple of days.

Local reactions increase with the number of doses administered. About 40% of children have swelling or pain in their arm after the fourth dose of DTaP, performed at 5-6 years. Some children may develop extensive but temporary swelling of the limb where the injection was administered.

In rare cases (1-2 per 10,000), more serious reactions may occur, such as seizures related to a high fever. Allergic anaphylactic reactions with swelling of the mouth, difficulty in breathing, low blood pressure and shock, are quite exceptional (less than 1 case per million subjects vaccinated).

It is much more dangerous for a child, as it is for adults, to contract diphtheria, tetanus or whooping cough than to incur a post-vaccination side effect.

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