How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Tetanus – diphtheria – polio vaccine belongs to the class of medications called vaccines. This vaccine is used to help protect from disease caused by tetanus, diphtheria, and polio.

This vaccine is used to immunize people aged 7 years and older who have not had vaccinations against these diseases as young children. It is also given as a “booster” dose for children and adults who have received vaccination against these diseases.

It works by increasing your defenses against the bacteria and viruses that cause these infections, by stimulating the production of your own antibodies. These antibodies remain in the body until needed to fight off the viruses and bacteria causing these infections if you are exposed to them.

Your doctor may have suggested this vaccine for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. As well, some forms of this vaccine may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you or your child is receiving this vaccine, speak to your doctor.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each 0.5 mL dose of cloudy, sterile, white uniform suspension contains tetanus toxoid 5 Lf, diphtheria toxoid 2 Lf, and purified inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine: Type 1 (Mahoney) 40 D-antigen units; Type 2 (MEF1) 8 D-antigen units; Type 3 (Saukett) 32 D-antigen units. Nonmedicinal ingredients: 2-phenoxyethanol, aluminum phosphate, formaldehyde, bovine serum albumin, neomycin, and polymyxin B. 

How should I use this medication?

The usual dose of this vaccine is 0.5 mL given as an injection into the muscle of the outer thigh or the outer side of the upper arm.

This vaccine is given by a health care professional in a doctor's office, hospital, or clinic.

Immunization for people 7 years of age and older, who have not been previously vaccinated, consists of 3 doses of 0.5 mL per dose. The first 2 doses should be given 2 months apart and the third dose is then given between 6 and 12 months later.

For people who have been previously vaccinated, a booster dose is recommended approximately every 10 years. Under certain conditions, it may be necessary to receive an extra dose of this vaccine earlier than 10 years. It is very important that this vaccine be given on a regular schedule as prescribed by the doctor. If you or your child miss a dose of this vaccine, check with your health care professional. You may not be fully protected against these illnesses if doses are missed. Add all vaccines your child receives to their immunization record.

This medication is stored in the refrigerator and should not be allowed to freeze.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take this medication if you:

  • are allergic to tetanus – diphtheria – polio vaccine or any ingredients of the medication
  • are currently experiencing a fever or a severe, acute illness

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • pain, soreness, redness, swelling, or a lump at the place of injection

Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • signs of a severe allergic reaction (e.g., difficulty breathing or swallowing; hives; swelling of the eyes, face, or mouth)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you or your child receives this vaccine, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies your child may have, any medications your child is taking, and any other significant facts about your child's health. These factors may affect the vaccine your child is receiving.

Bleeding disorders: If you or your child have a bleeding disorder or are taking medications that make you more likely to bleed (i.e., warfarin, acetylsalicylic acid [ASA]) tell the person giving you the injection. There is a risk of excessive bleeding where you get the injection if it is not done carefully.

Immune system: As with any vaccine, this vaccine may not be as effective for people with a weakened immune system (e.g., people with AIDS or cancer, people taking antirejection medications after an organ transplant, people receiving chemotherapy, people taking any medication that suppresses the immune system). If your child has a weakened immune system, their doctor may decide to postpone the vaccine till their immune system recovers.

Infection or fever: This vaccine should not be given to anyone who has an active infection or an illness associated with fever, unless the doctor decides that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Vaccine protection: As with any vaccine, this vaccine may not protect 100% of people who receive it and may not prevent infection in those people already infected with the bacteria or virus.

Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if tetanus – diphtheria – polio vaccine passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between tetanus – diphtheria – polio vaccine and any of the following:

  • acetaminophen
  • belimumab
  • fingolimod
  • immunosuppressants (medications used to treat cancer or autoimmune disease, or prevent organ rejection)
    • azathioprine
    • corticosteroids (e.g., budesonide, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, fluticasone, prednisone)
    • cyclosporine
    • hydroxyurea
    • infliximab
    • medications to treat cancer (e.g., carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, ifosfamide, vincristine)
    • mycophenolate
    • rituximab
    • tacrolimus
  • meningococcal polysaccharide (Groups A/C/Y and W-135) tetanus toxoid conjugate vaccine
  • warfarin

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.