Tetanus: another reason to vaccinate

In March this year a 7 year old girl in NSW contracted tetanus. The full story can be found at http://www.abc.net.au/…/tetanus-girl-not-vaccinated…/8362722. This is unacceptable, considering tetanus is easily prevented by vaccination.

According to the National Immunisation Program Schedule, children are vaccinated against tetanus at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 18 months, 4 years and 10-15 years. It is a part of the DTPa vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis). Generally the tetanus vaccine is effective for up to 10 years, but re-immunisation is often required in the event of potential exposure to the bacteria (e.g. via puncture wound or injury with rusty/dirty metal objects). If you have any questions about tetanus or the vaccine, contact your GP.


Tetanus, which can also be known as ‘lockjaw’, is an infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. The bacteria can be found in soil, saliva, manure, and dust. Because of a special spore inside the bacteria, it can survive extreme conditions and it can be difficult to eliminate from the environment.
The bacteria produces a toxin that affects your skeletal muscles and causes severe muscle spasms, fever, headache, heart problems, breathing difficulties and incontinence. It most often begins with mild spasms in the jaw (hence the name lockjaw). As it progresses, the spasms get worse, and spread around the body. These spasms can be so severe they result in fractures.
It has an average incubation period of 8 days. 10% of individuals affected will die, even with treatment. This number is higher in unvaccinated individuals. In addition, exposure to tetanus does not prevent further infection.
Vaccinating against tetanus as part of your or your child’s regular immunisation program is the only way to avoid infection, and avoid risking death.