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Tdap Vaccine

(Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis)

Important Information for High School Students/Parents

The Immunization of School Pupils Act states that all students in school must have up-to-date immunization for their age on file with the Health Unit. The Act does allow for a medical or conscientious objection to immunization. To obtain this, a Ministry form must be completed and filed with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. Students with incomplete immunization records may be suspended from school until the required immunization is received and the health unit is notified.

Babies and young children are routinely immunized against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus and polio. This primary immunization is normally completed when the child is four to six years old. Ten years later, at 14-16 years of age, a “booster” dose containing tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, Tdap, is given as Adacel® or Boostrix®. The tetanus and diphtheria (Td) components of Tdap vaccine are required for school attendance as legislated through the Immunization of School Pupils Act. Starting in August 2011 the Publicly Funded Immunization Schedules expanded to include a single lifetime booster dose of Tdap for adults who did not receive a dose of acellular pertussis vaccine during adolescence. All adults need a tetanus booster every 10 years, given as tetanus, diphtheria (Td).

Some students may have received Tdap or Td from the family doctor. Also, some students may have received Tdap or Td in a hospital emergency room if they received treatment for a cut, dog bite, burn or any type of dirty wound that caused a break in the skin. If you know you have had a Tdap or Td vaccination, please complete the attached Tdap consent form; write the date and place you received the needle and return the form to the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. You may also update your record online at

What is tetanus (lockjaw)?

It is a serious disease that can happen when dirt containing the tetanus spore gets into a break in the skin. It does not spread from one person to another. It causes severe cramping of the muscles in the neck, arms, legs and stomach, and painful convulsions. Even with early treatment, it causes death in two out of every 10 people who get it.

What is diphtheria?

It is a serious disease of the nose, throat and skin that is passed on to others through coughing and sneezing. It causes sore throat, fever and chills and can have complications of breathing problems, heart failure and nerve damage.

What is pertussis (whooping cough)?

Whooping cough is a respiratory disease that spreads very easily by coughing and sneezing. It is a frequent cause of a prolonged coughing illness in teenagers who can then pass it on to infants and young children.

Whooping cough is very serious in infants and young children. They have spells of violent coughing with mucous, followed by a crowing sound or whoop. This is often followed by vomiting. The cough can cause
breathing to stop for a short period of time.

The cough can last for weeks and make it hard to hear, swallow or even breathe.

Is Tdap vaccine safe?

Yes. Mild pain, swelling and redness for a few days are common at the spot where the needle was given. A few people may get a mild fever, lose their appetite or feel tired for a day or two after the needle.

The benefits of this vaccine are much greater than the risks associated with getting the diseases.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Tdap vaccine should not be given under the following conditions:

  • High fever or serious infection worse than a cold.
  • Serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to previous doses of diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis vaccine.
  • Severe allergy to any component of the vaccine.
  • Pregnancy – consult with primary health care provider.
  • Diagnosis of Guillain-Barre′ syndrome occurring within 8 weeks of receiving vaccine containing tetanus toxoid.
  • Blood clotting problems after receiving diphtheria and/or tetanus vaccine.
  • Development of a serious nervous system disorder within 7 days of receiving a pertussis-containing vaccine.

What should I do if serious side effects do occur?

Depending on urgency, you should go to your doctor/nurse practitioner or the nearest emergency department if any of the following symptoms occur within three days of getting the needle:

  • Hives.
  • Swelling of the mouth and throat.
  • Trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing.
  • High fever (over 39° C or 103° F).
  • Convulsions or seizures.
  • Other serious reactions to the vaccine.

Will I get a record of this vaccination?

The nurse will provide you with a record of this vaccination. It is very important to keep this record. You may need proof of this at a later time.

For more information, please contact a member of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Team by calling the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623 or by fax at 519-426-9246.

The Health Unit does not have complete immunization records for some students. These students have been notified by letter and will only be vaccinated at the school immunization clinic if, either before, or on the day of the school clinic, they can provide the Health Unit with a full written history of all childhood vaccines they have received.

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