Tetanus is a serious infection that affects the body’s nervous system. Tetanus bacteria are present in soil and manure and can enter the body through a wound or cut.

High-risk areas

Tetanus is found throughout the world. Any location where medical attention may not be available if you hurt yourself is considered to be a high-risk area.

In the UK, children are vaccinated against tetanus under the childhood vaccination programme. This means that many people in the UK will already be fully vaccinated against tetanus.

A tetanus vaccination is usually recommended for anyone who:

  • has not been vaccinated before
  • has not been fully vaccinated (in the UK you should receive five doses of the tetanus vaccine)
  • is travelling to a country with limited medical facilities, and whose last dose of the tetanus vaccine was more than 10 years ago

The vaccine

Children under 10 years of age will receive their tetanus vaccine as part of the childhood vaccination programme.

Children who are 10 years of age or over and adults who have never been vaccinated will need three doses of the vaccine, each one a month apart. You can have a booster dose 5–10 years after this, followed by a second booster dose after another 10 years, and then you will be protected for life.

Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated, or has not had a booster dose in the last 10 years, will need to have a booster dose of the tetanus vaccine.

The tetanus vaccine is usually combined with other vaccines, such as diphtheria and polio. The tetanus vaccine is not suitable for babies younger than two months old.