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The DTaP vaccine is a combination of three vaccines in one. This vaccine prevents diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The vaccine creates immunity to the toxins created by the bacteria that cause these diseases.
In this video series, physicians at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia explain how vaccines work and how they are made. The video also describes several vaccines and the diseases they prevent. Families share their stories of children affected by vaccine-preventable diseases.
Louis M. Bell, MD: Thank you. That's better. That's a little better.
The next vaccine that we're going to talk about is really three vaccines in one. Because we are able to easily combine these vaccines, children can get one shot instead of three.
The vaccine is called DTaP. Let’s start with the D. When my father was a child this bacterial infection was one of the most common killers of teenagers. Diphtheria causes a thick coating at the back of the throat that makes it difficult for children to swallow and breathe. While it's growing in the throat the bacteria makes a harmful protein, a poison called a toxin, that attacks the heart, as well as the kidney and also the nervous system. Now because of the diphtheria vaccine only about two to five children get diphtheria every year in the United States. But the disease continues to occur in other parts of the world. Because international travel is common, the diphtheria vaccine is still important for our children.
The second letter of DTaP vaccine is T for tetanus. Tetanus is the only vaccine that prevents an infection that is not transmitted from one person to another. Tetanus bacteria live in the soil and enter the body after a cut or a puncture wound. Tetanus, like diphtheria, is a bacterium that makes a toxin, the tetanus toxin invades the muscles and causes strong and painful muscle spasms. The infection is also known as lock jaw because the toxin can affect the muscles of the jaw. Every year some people in the United States get tetanus and die from the disease. Because the tetanus bacteria will always be present in the soil, the possibility of infection will never be eliminated; so it's important to be immunized.
The last letter of the DTaP vaccine is P for pertussis, an infection with a very recognizable sound. [sound of baby coughing] pertussis as a bacterium that causes a thick sticky mucus that clogs the windpipe. Children infected with pertussis bacteria cough repeatedly, often turning blue before they breathe in.
Lisa Rae, parent: The coughing episodes, I mean, sometimes they lasted, you know, for a minute and a half. And that minute and a half is the longest minute and a half you can imagine.
Louis M. Bell, MD:When they breathe in against their narrowed windpipe, they make a whooping sound. That's why the disease is also known as "whooping cough."
Lisa Rae, parent: There was one time, probably for about two days where they weren't sure. The infectious disease specialist came in and he said, "You know, I've treated a lot of pertussis cases." He said, "This is a serious one." He said, "I can't give you any guarantees." And that probably was the hardest thing for me to hear.
Louis M. Bell, MD: Although some parents may think that whooping cough is a rare disease in the United States, it isn't. Every year many adults get pertussis. If you've ever had a cough that lasted longer than five days, you may well have had it. And if you have children, they can easily catch it from you.
Lisa Rae, parent: As we walk along the streets now, I hear someone coughing, and my husband and I will look at each other, "Oh, that person may have pertussis and not know it."
Louis M. Bell, MD: Although the three diseases we just talked about, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are all very different, the bacteria that cause these diseases share one thing in common. They all make harmful proteins called toxins. To be protected against these diseases, you need to have immunity to the toxins. So how can you get immunity to the toxins without being hurt by them? Toxins are first purified away from the bacteria and then made harmless by a chemical. These harmless toxins are called toxoids. Toxoids give children immunity to the toxins without causing them to suffer these terrible diseases.
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