Whooping Cough Vaccines Are Safe
Whooping cough vaccines are safe. In particular, getting the whooping cough vaccine called Tdap during pregnancy is safe for both women and their babies. The whooping cough vaccine called DTaP is safe for children.
- Getting Tdap during pregnancy does not put women at increased risk for pregnancy complications.
- No safety concerns or trends (also called safety signals) have been identified for babies whose mothers received Tdap during pregnancy.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved both Tdap vaccines (Boostrix® and Adacel®) for use during pregnancy.
- See the research page for a list of published safety studies.
Tdap vaccination during pregnancy is widely supported
In 2012, CDC first began recommending the use of Tdap during pregnancy based on feedback from an outside panel of experts (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices).
Doctors and midwives who specialize in caring for pregnant women agree that getting Tdap is important and safe during pregnancy. Pediatric and family doctors also support the use of Tdap during pregnancy to provide protection to newborns.
Multiple safety systems, studies support Tdap vaccination in pregnancy
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a national vaccine safety surveillance program, receives information from the public about possible side effects from various vaccines. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitor VAERS to look for new safety concerns or trends (also called safety signals) after Tdap vaccination. Published studies that include VAERS data support the safe use of Tdap during pregnancy.
To date, VAERS has not found any safety signals among pregnant women or their babies after Tdap vaccination.
Both manufacturers of Tdap vaccine (Sanofi Pasteur for Adacel® and GlaxoSmithKline for Boostrix®) created pregnancy registries to collect information from pregnant women who got Tdap vaccine.
The manufacturers have not reported any safety signals to FDA.
Tdap helps protect against tetanus and diphtheria, in addition to whooping cough. Since the 1960s, pregnant women worldwide have been getting tetanus only or tetanus and diphtheria vaccines to prevent tetanus among newborns. This long history provides researchers a lot of data to understand the safety of the tetanus and diphtheria parts of Tdap.
Getting a tetanus vaccine, including Tdap, during pregnancy is safe for women and their babies.
In the past, vaccines that protected against tetanus were associated with more severe local reactions. Examples of local reactions include redness, swelling, pain, and tenderness where the shot is given. Manufacturers now make tetanus vaccines, including Tdap, with lower amounts of the tetanus part than in the past. Experts believe this change has reduced the risk of severe local reactions. For example, studies found that adults who receive 2 tetanus shots in a short time period (within 2 years) were no more likely than adults getting their first Tdap to have severe side effects. CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists consider the benefits of Tdap vaccination in multiple pregnancies to outweigh theoretical (potential) risks.
There is a low risk of severe side effects from multiple tetanus, including Tdap, doses.
Some may experience side effects from getting Tdap
Most side effects are mild, meaning they do not affect daily activities. They also get better on their own in a few days. The most common side effects from Tdap include:
- Reactions where the doctor gave the shot
In adults who have received 2 doses of Tdap, the most commonly reported side effect was pain where they got the shot.
Severe side effects are extremely rare.
DTaP is safe for children
DTaP is the name of the whooping cough vaccine for children (2 months through 6 years). DTaP also combines protection against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough, but in different amounts than Tdap. Currently, there are 3 licensed formulations of DTaP. Researchers conducted many different clinical trials on each vaccine to make sure of its safety. Results from clinical trials showed that these vaccines are safe for babies and children. Doctors can safely give DTaP at the same time as other vaccines.
Some babies may experience side effects from DTaP
The most common side effects from DTaP include:
- Reactions where the doctor gave the shot
- Irritability (fussiness)
- Feeling tired
- Loss of appetite
More serious reactions, such as seizures, non-stop crying for 3 hours or more, or high fever (over 105°F) after DTaP vaccination happen much less often. Rarely, vaccination is followed by swelling of the entire arm or leg, especially in older children when they receive their fourth or fifth dose.
Pregnant women cannot get whooping cough from Tdap
Tdap cannot give pregnant women whooping cough since the vaccine does not contain any live bacteria. The whooping cough vaccines we use today for children and adults in the United States contain purified, inactivated parts of the bacterium that causes whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis).
Learn more about different types of vaccines and which CDC recommends for pregnant women.
Breastfeeding is safe after getting Tdap
Getting Tdap while breastfeeding is safe for women and their babies. Women can and should get Tdap if they plan to breastfeed or are currently breastfeeding. There are, however, some vaccines that CDC does not recommend women get while breastfeeding.
Learn more about how breastfeeding may pass some protective antibodies from the mom onto her baby.
Pregnant women can get a whooping cough, flu, and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time
Women can get Tdap, a flu vaccine, and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time during pregnancy. There might also be situations where they get them at different visits. CDC recommends Tdap be given later in pregnancy to best protect the baby from whooping cough. However, flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at any point during pregnancy.
If women are pregnant during flu season, September and October are generally good times to get vaccinated. CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccine for people who are pregnant, including an updated booster as soon as they are eligible. Learn how to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination.
Pregnant women can safely get Tdap even if they recently got a tetanus vaccine
It does not matter when someone got their last tetanus vaccine (Td or Tdap)—women still need Tdap during each pregnancy.
Whooping cough vaccines do not contain thimerosal
None of the whooping cough vaccines (Tdap and DTaP) currently used in the United States contain thimerosal.