Travel Vaccinations for Tetanus

Tetanus is usually transmitted through cuts and scrapes that allow the bacteria causing the disease through our protective barrier of skin. While most people in the UK are effectively vaccinated against tetanus through the NHS’ childhood vaccination scheme, some people have not received the vaccination, and if they intend on travelling to a part of the world where tetanus is still a problem, they will need an injection. Similarly if you are travelling to these areas and have not had a booster injection against tetanus in the past 10 years, you may be advised to organise a vaccination before you travel.

The tetanus vaccination

Tetanus is still fairly common in agricultural areas in Africa, Asia, and South America, as well as areas and countries where animal waste comes into contact with people for whatever reason. The effects of the tetanus infection occur as a result of a toxic substance released by the bacteria causing the disease Clostridium tetani. The substance is called tetanospasmin, and is actually used as the basis for the vaccination against tetanus.

The vaccine is administered as a 3 in 1 injection that also works against polio and diphtheria called the Td/IPV. The component of this injection that works to immunise against tetanus is a harmless version of tetanospasmin. Injecting this toxoid (the name given to harmless toxins) has no adverse effects, but does teach your immune system how to recognise the injection and respond to it accordingly.

Arranging the tetanus travel vaccine

You should arrange the tetanus travel vaccine if you have not been immunised against tetanus, or if you haven’t had a booster against the disease in over 10 years. You can get the injection at either your doctor’s practice or at a private practice, and as it is offered as part of a 3 in 1 injection that includes polio you may not have to pay for it. This is because the polio injection is covered by the NHS due to the risk the condition poses.  

Remember to arrange the vaccine with enough time to deal with any potential side effects. Side effects of the Td/IPV vaccine are usually very mild and limited to a slight reddening and swelling around the injection wound.

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