Fast Facts On Global Tetanus

Updated February 24, 2023

← Data and Statistics

Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus is a Public Health Problem in 12 Countries and Tetanus Still Affects People Globally

  • Worldwide, 75 million women and their babies remain unprotected against maternal and neonatal tetanus.
  • In 2019, the Global Burden of Disease study estimated over 73,000 total tetanus cases including over 27,000 neonatal tetanus infections.
  • A modeling study found that during January to December 2020, an estimated 30 million children missed completing their 3 primary doses of tetanus containing vaccine.
  • Several countries still do not provide tetanus booster shots to protect their populations throughout life.

Tetanus Causes Serious Health Problems

  • In countries with no intensive care, almost 100% of persons who get infected with tetanus die.
  • Tetanus, also known as “lockjaw,” causes severe health problems including tightening of the jaw muscles, muscle spasms, stiffness, and jerking or staring (seizures). Tetanus can also make it difficult to swallow or breathe, which can lead to respiratory failure and death.
  • Neonates who survive tetanus can have severe long-term neurologic, behavioral, and intellectual abnormalities.

Tetanus is Preventable with a Safe and Cost-Effective Vaccine

  • Safe and effective tetanus vaccines have been available since the 1940s.
  • The World Health Organization recommends at least 6 doses of tetanus toxoid-containing vaccine for lifelong protection. The first 3 doses should start at the age of 6 weeks and be completed by the age of 6 months with at least 4 weeks between doses. Another 3 doses (boosters) are recommended at the age of 12-23 months, 4-7 years, and 9-15 years for lifelong protection. Ideally, booster shots are given at least 4 years apart.
  • Maternal and neonatal tetanus can be prevented by vaccinating pregnant women who then transfer tetanus protection to the baby through the placenta.
  • Tetanus vaccination is highly cost-effective. The cost of delivering 1 tetanus vaccine dose (the vaccine, shipping, and supplies) is estimated at less than $1 in developing countries.

Tetanus Vaccines Save Lives

  • Global tetanus vaccination programs contributed to a 95% reduction in neonatal tetanus deaths in the last 30 years and continue to decrease tetanus burden.
  • Thanks to vaccination, neonatal tetanus currently accounts for less than 1% of major causes of neonatal deaths, a significant decrease compared with a 7% contribution to all-cause neonatal mortality in 2000.
  • A 2020 study estimated that eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus in the remaining countries would result in approximately 70,000 neonatal tetanus deaths prevented over a 10-year period.