The bacteria that cause tetanus can be found everywhere in the environment, especially in the soil, and can enter the body through wounds in the skin.

Several vaccines protect against tetanus:

  • DTaP  The DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccine is highly effective in preventing tetanus in young children. DTaP shots are recommended for babies at ages 2, 4, and 6 months, and again at 15 through 18 months of age. A DTaP booster is recommended for children ages 4 through 6 years  old.
  • Tdap Because protection from tetanus decreases over time, older children need to get the Tdap vaccine. This booster shot contains a full dose of tetanus and lower doses of diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. The Tdap vaccine is recommended for all 11 through 18 year olds, preferably at age 11 or 12 years.
  • Td  After getting the Tdap vaccine as a preteen or teen, adults need to get a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. Adults who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen or teen can get Tdap instead of their next regular Td booster. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark, so it’s a good idea for adults to talk to a doctor about what’s best for them.

Tetanus vaccines are safe, but side effects can occur. Most side effects are mild, meaning that they don’t affect daily activities. Be sure to read the vaccine information sheet that your doctor gives you to learn more about the most common side effects.

Adapted from information at