Why CDC is Working to Prevent Global Tetanus

Updated February 24, 2023

Health Costs: Tetanus Causes Serious Illness and Death

  • Maternal and neonatal tetanus remains a major public health problem globally, especially in areas with poor immunization coverage and limited access to clean deliveries and umbilical cord care. Among infants who get tetanus, 80-100% will die.
  • In 2019, the Global Burden of Disease studyexternal icon estimated over 73,000 total tetanus cases including over 27,000 neonatal tetanus infections. An estimated 34,700 tetanus deaths occurred worldwide, most in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The World Health Organization reports an increasing burden of tetanus is occurring among adult men, especially in countries that do not provide tetanus booster doses. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of non-neonatal tetanus cases per million population and 71% of hospitalized tetanus patients are men.

Monetary Costs: Tetanus Costs Families and Countries Millions Annually but is Inexpensive to Prevent

  • In unvaccinated persons, tetanus infection almost always requires admission to the hospital for treatment. People can be hospitalized for several weeks for treatment leading to high healthcare costs. Studies on the cost of treating tetanus are limited, but a 2017 case study in the United States showed the health care cost to treat one child was over $800,000.
  • Compared to the high monetary costs for treatment, preventing tetanus is a cost-effective, lifesaving intervention. The cost of delivery for one tetanus vaccine dose is estimated at less than $1 in developing countries.
  • Eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus in the remaining countries would prevent an estimated 70,000 neonatal tetanus deaths over a 10-year period through vaccination.

A newborn infant displays a rigid body. This is an often-fatal condition known as neonatal tetanus.

This hospitalized neonate is displaying a bodily rigidity produced by Clostridium tetani exotoxin. This serious, often fatal, condition is known as neonatal tetanus.

Ongoing Challenge: Many Children and Pregnant Women are Missing Out on the Benefit of Tetanus Vaccination

  • Worldwide, 75 million women and their babies remain unprotected against tetanus, leaving them at risk of maternal and neonatal tetanus infection, death, or serious health complications that can be lifelong.
  • An estimated 30 million children missed completing their three primary doses of tetanus containing vaccine (DTP3) during January to December 2020.
  • Several countries still do not provide the tetanus booster shots needed to protect people throughout life.

Actions: CDC Works Worldwide to Eliminate Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus

CDC works with partners and countries to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus and promote protection against tetanus throughout life.