Which Adults Need a Tdap Vaccine?

Paul A. Offit, MD, talks about the differences between the Td and Tdap vaccines and related vaccine recommendations.


Which adults need a Tdap vaccine?

Paul Offit, MD:  Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I’m talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center, here at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

One of the questions that we’ve gotten is, “Which adults need a Tdap vaccine?” Tdap just stands for … the “T” stands for tetanus, the “d” stands for diphtheria, and the “ap” stands for acellular pertussis; pertussis just means whooping cough. Now, probably a lot of adults are aware of the fact that every 10 years they need to get a Td vaccine, which is tetanus-diphtheria, so how about the pertussis part, the whooping cough part, do they really need that? The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices to the CDC recommended actually that one can either get the Td vaccine or the Tdap vaccine every 10 years. There’s obviously the advantage of the Tdap vaccine in that it protects against pertussis, or whooping cough, which the Td vaccine doesn’t.

So, at the Vaccine Education Center we think it makes the most sense actually just to give the Tdap vaccine every 10 years, you know, starting at around 15 years of age when the child has already gotten their adolescent or teenage booster dose from then on really for the rest of your life.

It’s interesting that the pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine is given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, again at 12 to 15 months of age, again at 4 to 6 years of age, again at 11 to 13 years of age — that’s six doses by the time you’re a teenager — but that doesn’t provide lifelong protection, unfortunately. You really do need to get those booster doses to be protected. And every time you get a booster dose containing a whooping cough vaccine, that protects you roughly for another five plus years or so.

So, that’s the answer. Please get a Tdap vaccine roughly every 10 years for the rest of your life.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Jan 30, 2020