This article is a follow-up to the article on Diphtheria and why is it deadly.
Vaccination against diphtheria is usually combined with vaccination against pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus under the name of DTaP or TDaP. Recently, DTaP or TDaP is further combined in with the polio vaccine known as DTaP-IPV or TDaP-IPV. It is a single injection that is recommended to be administered at 1, 2, 5 and 18 months of life in a child. A booster is also warranted at 7 years of age for just diphtheria and tetanus.
Recent evidence suggests that the immunity against diphtheria wears off with time and a booster shot is also recommended in adults every 10 years. Furthermore, pregnant ladies are also recommended to take the vaccine between 27 to 36 weeks of gestation.
DTaP vs TDaP?
DTaP refers to diphtheria(D), tetanus accelullar (Ta) and pertussis(P) while TDaP refers to tetanus(T), diphtheria accelullar (Da), and pertussis(P).
The main difference between the two is that DTaP is recommended for children under 7 years of age while TDaP, which contains a reduced dose of the pertussis and diphtheria vaccines is suitable for children above 7 years of age and adults as boosters.
Allergies and Side effects of DTaP and TDaP
People may be allergic to vaccines. Just like how people may be allergic to certain foods, this is completely random. Parents should watch out for symptoms of allergies in children after an injection. If they occur, seek medical help immediately. Some of the symptoms are:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Wheezing or hoarseness in voice
- Rapid heart beat
Apart from allergies, just like any medicine, vaccines against diphtheria can have side effects. Common side effects are
- Redness or swelling at the site of injection along with pain or soreness
While very rare side effects such as brain damage and long-term seizures have been reported, they are so rare that it is impossible for doctors and scientist to quantify whether these side-effects are actually due to the vaccine or caused by something else.
The common side effects usually occur within the first 3 days after receiving the vaccine. Any fever should be brought under control with paracetamol (acetaminophen) or other anti-pyretic such as ibuprofen or diclofenac. Remember not to use aspirin in children as it may lead to a dangerous side effect called Reye’s syndrome. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor if you are in doubt on which fever medication is suitable for your child or yourself.
Although it may seem inconvenient or dangerous, the benefits of vaccinations outweigh risks. Therefore, it is important to keep up-to-date on vaccinations as they not only protect your children from severe illness, they also keep the disease in check at the level of your community.
Vaccines do increase the risk of febrile seizures, usually during the first 3 days right after a vaccine injection
Myths about the DTaP and TDaP vaccines
Myth 1: Too many injections/components at once will overwhelm a young child’s immune system
Vaccines against multiple diseases are given to young children because they are at highest risk of getting very sick or dying from them. Although new-born babies get some protective antibodies from their mother, this barely lasts for a few months. Therefore, it is important to let them develop their own immunity against these diseases as soon as possible.
Scientific studies have shown that getting multiple vaccines at the same times does not cause any chronic health problems, and these combinations vaccines such as the DTaP-IPV have been extensively tested before they are marketed. The immune system of a healthy young child is not so easily “overwhelmed”. Furthermore, giving these shots combined into one meant that the child requires less visits to the doctor’s office, saving time and money, and also less traumatic for the child.
Myth 2: Autism
The myth of the link between vaccines and autism was initiated by a fake research which has long since been retracted by the journal that published it. It also has been disproven by many follow-up researches thereafter. Find out more in detail from our article here.
Myth 3: Increased risk of febrile seizures
Well, this is not really a myth, but it has been up-played to scare parents from vaccinations.
As we know, fevers are common during childhood and can be caused by colds, flu, ear infections, etc. High fevers caused by these common childhood illnesses can cause febrile seizures. It is estimated that up to 5% of young children will experience febrile seizures at some point of their lives. Due to the fact that vaccines can sometimes also cause fever (caused by the way the vaccine induces the body’s immune response), hence vaccines do increase the risk of febrile seizures, usually during the first 3 days right after a vaccine injection. This increased risk is very small. While it may appear very dramatic and scary for a parent to witness a febrile seizure, febrile seizures due to any common childhood illness or vaccination have not been shown to cause any brain damage or life-long seizure condition.
In fact, vaccinating children according to the immunization schedule may prevent febrile seizures as they become protected against a myriad of diseases that cause fever such as diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, influenza and pneumococcal infections.
Myth 4: These diseases are mild at worse and treatable with antibiotics, why should a child be put at risk
There is also a very real risk of dying from these diseases even with advanced medical care. Look at the case of the recent death. It also helps protect the community (where there are people who are unable to receive vaccines) through herd immunity.
Myth 5: There are toxins in the vaccines
The so-called “toxins” in vaccines are so little, that a new-born have much high levels of these “toxins” in their body naturally and is certainly not a cause for alarm. There are mainly preservatives or some left-over impurities that cannot be completely removed. Read more about these “toxins” here.
Who should not take the DTaP and TDaP vaccines
Any person who has an allergic reaction to these vaccines or is allergic to any component of these vaccine should not be given it. People with infantile spasms, epilepsy and, encephalopathy (inflammation of the brain) within 7 days of receiving the vaccine, should avoid the vaccine as well.
Misconceptions about who should not take the vaccines
There are many misconceptions out there about who should not take these vaccines. A mild illness with low fever (<38.5oC) is not a reason to avoid vaccines. However, if the fever is moderate to high grade (>38.5oC), then it is a good reason to delay the vaccine, not avoid it completely.
Other reasons such as redness, swelling and pain at the site of injection, currently taking antibiotics, breastfeeding, other family members allergic to certain vaccines, and allergies to antibiotics (except neomycin and streptomycin) are not reasons to avoid vaccines in general.
Diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease and could be potentially be kept in check as long as we all play a part in getting our vaccinations. If you are in doubt on whether you should get your child or yourself vaccinated, always consult your family doctor. They are in the best position to clear your doubts instead of some random health guru on social media or doctor google.
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- Image credit: https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/cutaneous-diphtheria