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Diphtheria and tetanus vaccine

The diphtheria and tetanus vaccine is only available through the Adsorbed Diphtheria and Tetanus (ADT Booster®) which helps protect you against the following diseases:

  • Diphtheria which most commonly causes a thick membrane to grow in the throat restricting breathing and can also lead to infection of the blood. 
  • Tetanus which causes stiffness and paralysis in the jaw and breathing muscles leading to severe muscle spasms.

This vaccine is also available in combinations as diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough combination vaccine.

Vaccine recommendations

The ADT vaccine is recommended if you are:

  • injured and at high risk of becoming infected and it is more than five years since a previous dose
  • aged over 50 years of age and have not had a dose in the previous 10 years
  • born overseas and may not be protected against diphtheria and tetanus (See New Arrival Refugee Immunisation Program)
  • travelling overseas where health services may be difficult to access
  • travelling frequently and it has been longer than five years since the last dose.

How the vaccine is given

ADT vaccine is given as an injection into the top of the arm.

Possible side effects

Like any medications, the ADT vaccine can have some minor and short lasting side effects.

Common side effects may include:

  • pain, redness and swelling where you were immunised
  • a low grade fever of 37 to 38 degrees Celcius
  • nausea
  • feeling unwell
  • joint pain.

Uncommon side effects may include:

  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • aching muscles
  • feeling generally unwell.

Although very rare, other side effects may include:

  • a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine
  • raised and itchy skin rash
  • inflammation of the nerve in the arm (brachial neutis) causing weakness and numbness.

If you are concerned or worried, seek further advice from your doctor, immunisation provider, SA Health’s Immunisation Section or healthdirect Australia.

Any unexpected event following immunisation should be reported to SA Health.

Reducing the side effects

Many of the common side effects can be reduced by:

  • drinking extra fluids
  • resting
  • taking paracetamol as per the instructions on the packet
  • not overdressing if you are already hot.

Where to get immunised

To receive the vaccine contact your doctor, local council, community health centre or Aboriginal health centre to arrange an appointment. 

For further information on immunisation providers, see the Immunisation services page.

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