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As a general rule, you need a tetanus vaccine every 10 years to ensure that you are protected from tetanus. In addition, if you receive a deep puncture wound or you have a wound which is contaminated with dirt and your last tetanus vaccine was more than five years ago, you may be told to get another vaccination, just to be careful. Because tetanus is an extremely painful and debilitating disease and it is fully vaccine-preventable, there is no good reason not to get a vaccine, especially since it is an extremely safe vaccine.
People have been vaccinated against tetanus since 1924, and combination vaccines which prevent diphtheria and pertussis along with tetanus have been administered since the 1940s. There are several different combination vaccines on the market, and your doctor can select the best one for you based on his or her experience and your vaccination history.
Tetanus vaccines start in childhood, when children receive a series of vaccinations to help them build up antibodies to a range of diseases. If you have not been vaccinated for tetanus as a child, you will need to take a three part vaccine series before switching to an every 10 years dosage schedule; you may be asked to undergo this series if you cannot provide proof of vaccination, as most doctors would prefer to be safe, rather than sorry.
Many people wonder why they need tetanus boosters when single vaccinations for some other diseases, like polio, are usually sufficient. Multiple doses of the tetanus vaccine are necessary because the vaccine is a toxoid or killed vaccine. Killed vaccines are safer than live vaccines, but they are also less effective, and they will eventually wear off over time.
The benefits of getting the tetanus vaccine far outweigh the risks, but you may want to remember that this is infamous for causing bruising, tenderness, and soreness. While these symptoms are entirely normal, they can be irritating, especially if your vaccination is in a highly visible place. You should also try to time your tetanus vaccine before a period of relaxation and rest, as physical exertion can exacerbate the soreness.