Tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine (Boostrix)
This vaccine is free for tamariki from aged 11. It’s a booster that gives your child the best protection against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough. You can also get it free when you are pregnant, and at age 45 and 65 years old.
This rare but serious disease is caused by bacteria found in soil and manure (horse or cow poo). You can get the disease if dirt carrying this bacteria gets into a wound – for example, if your tamariki gets a cut while playing in the garden.
Tetanus toxins caused by the bacteria act like a poison in your body. Symptoms of tetanus disease include painful muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, chewing and swallowing. In the past, about 1 in 10 people who got tetanus would die from the disease.
Tetanus cannot be spread from person to person. Since we began immunising against tetanus in New Zealand it has become a very rare disease. Almost all cases of tetanus have happened in unvaccinated people.
Diphtheria is a serious disease that can easily spread from person to person (especially within families) through coughing and sneezing.
It causes a skin infection but can also affect the throat causing breathing difficulties.
Diphtheria was a common cause of death in children until the 1940s. But this disease is now very rare in New Zealand because of immunisation.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a bacteria that causes breathing difficulties and severe coughing fits. The cough can go on for weeks or months which is why it’s sometimes called the ‘100 day cough’.
Having severe whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, seizures, and other neurological (brain) issues. More than half of babies under 12 months old who catch it need to go to hospital, and up to 1 in 50 of these babies die.
It’s very contagious. It can easily spread between family members by coughing and sneezing. It can also spread quickly around early education centres and schools.
Whooping cough is not under control in New Zealand, and when outbreaks occur, it affects thousands of people.
When it’s given
The tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine is offered to children for free from when they are 11 years old.
It’s available through some schools for students in Year 7 and is also free from your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider.
How to book a vaccination appointment
If you’re pregnant
Whooping cough is particularly dangerous for babies. For this reason, pregnant people are encouraged to have an additional tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine dose.
It is most effective when given from 16-26 weeks of pregnancy, but is available and free from 13 weeks of every pregnancy.
Rangatahi and adults
Certain people are recommended to have a tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine at least every 10 years – there may be a cost.
This includes people who:
- work with young children and vulnerable people
- live with a newborn baby
- are at higher risk of severe illness from whooping cough (for example those with chronic respiratory disease).
Whooping cough boosters are recommended for adults at 45 and 65 years old.
It’s common for adult caregivers (such as grandparents and other close whānau) to have a whooping cough booster to help protect their moko.
If you get a dirty wound
If you are concerned about a wound, especially if it is deep or there is dirt in it, you can also receive this vaccine for free. This gives extra protection against tetanus. It’s funded by ACC.
Which vaccine is used
The vaccine we use in New Zealand is Boostrix. It is sometimes called dTap vaccine.
It’s given as an injection, normally into a muscle in your upper arm.
Boostrix information – Medsafe (PDF)
Side effects and reactions
Like most medicines, vaccines can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them.
Mild reactions are normal and shows that your immune system is responding to the vaccine.
If you’re going to have any reactions, they normally happen in the first few days after getting vaccinated. The vaccine itself is gone from your body within a few hours or days.
The most common reaction to an immunisation includes:
- a slight fever
- pain or swelling where the needle went in.
Other common reactions
Other common reactions usually happen within 6 to 24 hours. They include:
- a headache
- feeling sick
- aches and pains.
Serious side effects are rare. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or nurse, or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.
Call 111 if you’re worried you, or your child, is having a serious reaction.
Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 1 million people will experience this.
Your vaccinator is well-trained and knows what to look for and can treat an allergic reaction quickly if it happens.
Serious allergic reactions normally happen within the first few minutes of vaccination, this is why you need to wait for up to 20 minutes after immunisation.