A DTaP immunization is an immunization which protects the recipient against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough. In the case of this particular vaccine, the pertussis is acellular, meaning that rather than including whole cells, the vaccine has select pertussis antibodies. This sets the DTaP immunization apart from the DTP immunization, in which whole cells are used. DTaP immunizations are increasingly common because they are believed to be safer.
The vaccination schedule for this immunization requires five separate shots administered at two months, four months, six months, 16-18 months, and 4-6 years. After the initial DTaP immunization series is completed, a booster against tetanus and diphtheria is recommended at age 11 to 12, with subsequent boosters every 10 years to provide lifetime protection.
Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis are all serious diseases, especially in childhood. While they can be treated, there are cases in which they can be fatal. The DTaP immunization helps children avoid these infections. However, there may be cases in which the risks of the DTaP immunization outweigh the benefits. Children with seizure disorders and certain neurological disorders may not be candidates for vaccination. In addition, if a child is sick at the time of a vaccination appointment, the doctor will usually recommend waiting. Before getting a DTaP immunization, parents should consult with the doctor to confirm that it is safe and recommended for their children.
The site of the DTaP immunization is usually sore after the vaccine is administered and applying hot compresses can ease the soreness. Patients may also develop mild fever, vomiting, soreness, and decreased appetite for several days after the immunization as their immune systems respond to the vaccine. In more serious cases, complications after DTaP immunization can include a high fever and seizures, in which case the child should see a doctor for treatment.
Some children react poorly to vaccines. If a child has a reaction after a DTaP immunization, she or he should not be given the same vaccination again. Other options may be pursued, or a doctor may determine that it would be safer to refrain from vaccinating. Parents should report any side effects they notice after vaccination to their physicians; hives and rashes, for example, suggest that the child may have experienced an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Sometimes children are allergic to components of the vaccine, such as egg, and other immunization options may be available.