Diphtheria / Tetanus / Pertussis (DTPA ) Vaccines

DTPa vaccines are scheduled to be given as a primary course of injections at 6 weeks, 4 and 5 months, and then 4 and 11 years of age. They are available in a variety of combinations including with Hepatitis B, inactivated polio, and Hemophilus influenzae B vaccines.

ADRAC in Australia recommended that parents be warned of the possibility of excessive limb swelling following the fourth dose of vaccine88 and the removal of the 18 month booster was aimed to reduce the extensive local reactions and increased reports of fever.89

Booster vaccines are scheduled for pre-schoolers (4 years), at school for 11 year olds and again at 45.

The incidence of whooping cough in teenagers and adults despite vaccination led to the recommendation that adults also receive a DTPa booster vaccine if –

  • planning a pregnancy or after the baby is born
  • they work with young children, especially maternity and nursery staff
  • they express an interest in having a booster.

DTP vaccines contain aluminium, formaldehyde and phenoxyethanol. The more severe side effects reported include – anaphylaxis, high fever, shock, seizures or convulsions, hypotonic (floppy) episodes and prolonged high pitched screaming.

These are symptoms of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The long term consequences have largely not been investigated and are ignored.

  • Chronic problems from DTP vaccine include ear infections, allergies, asthma and sleep disturbances.
  • More serious long term effects include mental retardation, infantile spasms, damage to sensory organs, learning disabilities, dyslexia and hyperactivity.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis )

Most of the side effects from DTPa vaccine are attributed to the whooping cough component. Information from the manufacturer states that there is no difference between the previously used whole-cell pertussis vaccine (formulated with mercury) and the current acellular vaccine when it comes to long-term and serious side effects.90

The following conditions were reported at follow up in children vaccinated against whooping cough – hospitalisation, developmental delay, seizures, other neurologic conditions, failure to thrive, cough greater than four weeks, other serious infection and health problems.


Tetanus vaccine is highly reactive and the amount of tetanus toxoid in the vaccine has been reduced over the years. Too frequent administration of tetanus vaccine may provoke an immediate life-threatening hypersensitivity’ reaction.

Tetanus boosters are not recommended every ten years but at 11 years and then at 45 and 65 or if there is a tetanus prone wound and more than five years have lapsed since the last dose.

Children are also exposed to tetanus toxoid when it is used as a carrier in other vaccines to promote an antibody response (eg meningococcal vaccine).

  •  It is known that tetanus booster vaccinations can cause changes to the ratio of T-lymphocyte (white blood cells) similar to those found in AIDS patients. The T-lymphocytes normally suppress the action of ‘autoantibodies’ which attack the body’s own cells as though they are foreign antigens.91Other researchers have concluded that “DTP or tetanus vaccination in children is associated with a lifetime history and 12 month prevalence of many allergies and related respiratory symptoms”.92
  • Other reactions that have been reported are degenerating conditions of the nervous system (eg GBS), tingling paralysis, numbness, haemolytic anaemia (destruction of red blood cells), recurrent abscesses and emotional instability.
  • There are reports that tetanus has developed despite the patient being fully vaccinated, and including with recent booster doses due to injury.93

Tetanus is reported very rarely in New Zealand and most cases occur in the elderly who have the double problem of poor circulation and poor immune system function.

It is essential to thoroughly clean a tetanus-prone wound regardless of whether a child (or adult) is vaccinated. These include deep, penetrating wounds and wounds with embedded foreign bodies such as splinters and thorns.


Diphtheria is so rare that many consider vaccination an unnecessary risk because of the risk of life threatening anaphylactic reactions to the vaccine. The adult formulations
of diphtheria-containing vaccines provide a much smaller dose of diphtheria toxoid than the children’s formulation (2 International Units (IU) versus 30 IU). The smaller dose is also recommended for children over eight years of age because like adults, they have a reduced tolerance to the diphtheria toxoid in the vaccine.

  •  Previous anaphylactic reaction to diphtheria vaccine is a contra-indication to having any further diphtheria containing vaccines. Adrenalin should be on hand in case of an allergic reaction with symptoms of pallor and shortness of breath.94
  • Diphtheria toxoid is used as a carrier protein in one of the meningococcal C vaccines and in Prevenar, pneumococcal vaccine, where 20ug of diphtheria toxoid is conjugated to each of the seven strains of pneumococcal protein.

89 AIH, 8th Edition, NH&MRC, Sept 2003
90 Deloria M.A. et al., Association of reactions after consecutive acellular or whole-cell pertussis vaccine immunisations. Pediatrics, 1995; 96(3): 592-594
91 Eibel et al NEJM Jan1984; 310 (3): 198-9
92 Hurwitz and Morgenstern at the World Federation of Chiropractic 5th Biennial Congress, May 17-22, 1999
93 Shimoni et al, Tetanus in an immunised patient BMJ, 16 Oct 1999; 319: 1049
94 IBID, 89

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