Those childhood vaccinations for tetanus and diphtheria should cover you for life, study says

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Credit: Max Pixel

People who got all their vaccinations against tetanus and diphtheria in childhood don’t need booster shots to remain protected against the two rare but dangerous diseases, researchers conclude in a new study that found no difference in disease rates between countries that recommend adult revaccination every 10 years and countries that say completing childhood vaccinations is enough.

As of 2017, the World Health Organization recommends vaccinating adults against tetanus and diphtheria only if they didn’t finish their childhood immunization series or don’t know whether they did. The guidelines make exceptions for pregnant women, some types of international travel, and tetanus-prone injuries. But in the U.S., the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which makes recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, currently favors booster shots every 10 years for adults.

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“What we had in 2016 was immunologic data. Now we have epidemiologic data that shows that the immunology is correct,” [microbiologist Mark] Slifka said in an interview. “What’s exciting about this is it’s a direct measure of whether there was more disease or less disease in [childhood] vaccination or revaccinating as adults.”


Slifka estimates the U.S. could save roughly $1 billion in health care costs every year if it dropped booster shots of these “legacy vaccines” for covered adults.

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