Vaccines are a safe and highly effective way to protect people against disease. Tdap and DTaP are two common vaccines. They’re combination vaccines, which means they contain more than one vaccine in the same shot.

Tdap and DTaP both protect against three diseases:

  • Tetanus. Tetanus causes painful tightening of muscles. This occurs throughout the body and also affects muscles that control breathing.
  • Diphtheria. Diphtheria can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, and death.
  • Pertussis (whooping cough). Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Whooping cough causes serious coughing episodes that can lead to breathing difficulties, and it can be especially severe in babies and young children.

Rates of these diseases fell dramatically in the United States because of vaccinations.

Rates of tetanus and diphtheria dropped by 99 percent, and rates of whooping cough dropped by 80 percent, since these vaccines became available.

Widespread vaccine use has saved many lives. These vaccines are recommended for everyone. Read on to understand the difference between Tdap and DTaP and when they’re used.

Both DTaP and Tdap protect against the same diseases but are used in different age groups.

Babies and children under age 7 will always get DTaP. Children over age 7 and adults will always get the Tdap vaccine.

The DTaP vaccine contains full-strength doses of all three vaccines. The Tdap vaccine provides a full-strength dose of tetanus vaccine and smaller doses of diphtheria and whooping cough to maintain immunity.

Yes. Tdap is often used as a booster. Anyone over age 7 who needs diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccines gets Tdap.

A person’s immunity against these diseases tends to decrease over time. This is why a booster shot is needed at least every 10 years.

There are guidelines for when people need vaccines. These guidelines are provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The recommended timeline for DTaP is:

  • at 2, 4, and 6 months
  • between 15 and 18 months
  • between 4 and 6 years

The recommended timeline for Tdap given as a booster is:

If you or your child has missed one or more vaccines, speak with your doctor about a plan to get caught up.

The CDC recommends that Tdap be given between 27 and 36 weeks in every pregnancy. Even if a pregnant person has had a Tdap vaccine in the past 10 years, it should be given again.

Babies don’t get their first dose of DTaP until they’re 2 months old. Pertussis (whooping cough) can be very severe in newborns. Giving Tdap in pregnancy provides the newborn with some protection.

Both DTaP and Tdap contain vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, which is also called pertussis. The vaccine names come from the first letter of each disease it protects against.

When an upper-case letter is used, the vaccine for that disease is full strength. Lower-case letters mean it contains a lower dose of the vaccine.

DTaP contains full doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccines. Tdap contains a full dose of the tetanus vaccine and a lower dose of diphtheria and whooping cough vaccines.

The lower-case “a” before the “p” in both vaccine names stands for acellular. This means broken down parts of the bacterium Bordetella pertussis that causes whooping cough is used to make the vaccine.

In the past, the whole bacterium was used in the vaccine, but it tended to cause more side effects.

For babies and children under age 7, DTaP is used. It’s made with full doses of tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccines. This provides better protection early on.

Some DTaP vaccines also protect against other diseases. Your child’s doctor will discuss the best immunization plan for your child with you.

There are seven DTaP vaccines approved for use in the United States.

  • Daptacel
  • Infanrix
  • Kinrix
  • Pediarix
  • Pentacel
  • Quadracel
  • Vaxelis

For adults who need protection against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, Tdap is used. Even an adult who has never had a tetanus, diphtheria, or whooping cough vaccine gets Tdap.

There are two Tdap vaccines approved for use in the United States.

  • Adacel
  • Boostrix

The CDC recommends DTaP or Tdap for everyone. The more people who are vaccinated, the fewer cases there are of these diseases.

Only people who have an allergy to the vaccine or any of its ingredients should avoid these vaccines. If you or your child is sick at the scheduled time, the vaccination may be delayed.

Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect against a disease. Both DTaP and Tdap protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

Babies and children under age 7 get DTaP. Adults and children over age 7 get Tdap. If you have any questions or concerns, make sure to discuss them with your doctor.