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DTaP vs Tdap Vaccines - What's the difference between them?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Aug 21, 2019.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

There are three main differences between DTaP and Tdap:

  • DTap is a combination vaccine used to provide immunity against 3 serious diseases (Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) whereas Tdap is used to boost immunity against the same 3 diseases
  • Tdap contains a lower dose of vaccine than DTaP. This is because Tdap is used to just boost immunity, not build up immunity
  • DTap is approved for children from age 6 weeks to under the age of 7 years. Tdap is approved for use in adults and children from age 10 years.

What is DTaP?

DTaP is a vaccine that helps protect children aged 6 weeks to younger than age 7 from three deadly bacterial diseases. The abbreviation DTaP stands for the three diseases, which are:

  • D = Diphtheria
  • T = Tetanus
  • P = Pertussis (the medical term for whooping cough).

DTaP contains inactivated forms of the toxin produced by the bacteria that cause these three diseases. Inactivated means that the toxin will no longer cause the disease but it does trigger the body to make antibodies that give it immunity against the toxin.

DTaP is sold under the brand names Daptacel and Infanrix.

What is Tdap?

Tdap is a booster medication that is given to adolescents from age 10 and to adults to offer continued protection from Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

Vaccinations usually only protect for a certain period, which varies among different vaccines. Experts recommend that everyone gets a booster shot for tetanus and Diphtheria every 10 years.

There is a booster vaccine that contains just tetanus and Diphtheria (called Td) but since immunity also wears off for pertussis, but at a slower rate, the vaccine Tdap was made. Your doctor will decide which booster (Td or Tdap) is best for you.

Tdap contains inactivated forms of the toxin produced by the bacteria that cause these three diseases. Inactivated means that the toxin will no longer cause the disease but it does trigger the body to make antibodies that give it immunity against the toxin.

Even though it protects against the same diseases as DTaP, the doses of the vaccines contained in Tdap is lower than that of DTaP, because it is just being used as a booster dose.

The abbreviation Tdap stands for:

  • T = tetanus
  • D = Diphtheria
  • P = Pertussis.

Tdap is sold under the brand names Adacel and Boostrix.

What is diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a respiratory disease caused by a bacteria that affects the mucous membranes, causing the formation of a false membrane in the throat that may hinder breathing and swallowing, and lead to potentially fatal heart and nerve damage and paralysis.

It is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing, but vaccination has made it rare in developed countries.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a nerve condition caused by spores from a common soil-borne bacteria called Clostridium tetani that enters the body from a wound. The tetanus toxin prevents nerve signals that allow muscles to relax from being transmitted, causing symptoms such as weakness, stiffness or cramps and difficulty chewing or swallowing food initially. These symptoms progress muscle rigidity and painful spasms.

Tetanus is often called Lockjaw which reflects the characteristic facial grimace that can occur when the disease is severe. There is no treatment for tetanus although tetanus immunoglobulin may be given to neutralize the toxin and reduce spread. Death occurs in one in ten people who get tetanus. Three of more doses of tetanus vaccine are required for full protection, followed by booster vaccines throughout life.

What is pertussis?

Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing, making it hard to breathe. It can affect all ages but can be deadly, particularly in babies less than a year old.

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