What Is Tdap?

Many people may wonder, "What is Tdap?" Tdap (Adacel®, Boostrix®) is a "booster" vaccine used to help prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) in both adults and adolescents. It is given as a single, one-time injection into the deltoid muscle of the upper arm (where most immunizations are given).
Tdap contains pertussis antigens, diphtheria toxoid, and tetanus toxoid. Toxoids are bacterial toxins that have been detoxified. Although the toxoids will not cause the actual disease, they stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to the toxin.
"Antigen" is the generic term for substances that cause the body to produce an immune response and to produce antibodies. Tdap contains a few different pertussis antigens which have been detoxified. Much like the toxoids, the detoxified antigens will not cause the actual disease but can stimulate an immune response.
Basically, the antigens and toxoids in Tdap "trick" the body into thinking it has been exposed to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. The body produces antibodies that will help fight these diseases if future exposure occurs.
(Click Tdap for more information on what Tdap is, to find out what side effects may occur with this vaccine, and to learn about the warnings and precautions associated with this vaccination.)
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