DPT Vaccine – All You Need To Know

What is DPT vaccine?

DPT stands for three diseases – D for Diptheria, P for Pertussis and T for Tetanus. And the DPT vaccine protects children against these three deadly diseases.


Why is DPT called the Triple antigen / Triple vaccine?

These are 3 infections that can be fatal for children. Especially children below the age of 5 years.

Diphtheria – is a bacterial infection that infects the nose and throat. A toxin is secreted that can cause serious complications in the infected child. And a membrane is formed in the throat  which can obstruct breathing

Tetanus – is a disease caused by bacteria that enter a wound. The bacteria then cause muscle spasm leading to serious breathing difficulties and death.

Pertussis which is commonly known as a Whooping Cough is a disease in which there is violent uncontrollable coughing which can make it difficult to breathe and therefore turn fatal.


Why is DPT vaccine given?

Diphtheria Pertussis and Tetanus were killers of children two or three decades back. In the present era you do not see any cases of Diphtheria or Tetanus. And this is basically because of the vaccination.

Vaccination must be continued if we want to keep our children safe from these deadly diseases

In this video – renowned pediatrician Dr Ravi Chander tells you everything you need to know about the DPT vaccine

Detailed article continues below the video

About Dr Ravi Chander

dr ravi chander MBBS,MD,(Paeds)

Dr. B .Ravi Chander

Dr B Ravi Chander. MBBS, MD (Paeds) is pediatrician with over 30 years of professional experience as a pediatrician and an equal number of years as faculty in Pediatrics. He is currently Professor and Vice Principal at MVJ Medical college & Research Hospital, Bangalore. Dr Ravi Chander is instructor in various courses in Pediatrics and Examiner of MD/DCH for many universities.He has a special interest in Infectious and Respiratory Medicine.

What are the types of DPT vaccine?

 There are 2 types of DPT vaccine.

The first is DPT-W – this is the whole cell vaccine

The second is DPT-A or the Acellular Pertussis Vaccine

The DPT – W is conventionally called the DPT vaccine.  It is made up of certain chemicals of Diphtheria and Tetanus to give us protection. And the killed bacteria of the Whooping cough is put into the vaccine to give protection against the Whooping cough


DPT vaccine – side effects in babies?


When DPT – W or the DPT whole cell vaccine is given to children – it is likely to produce certain side effects. Two of the most common side effects are

  1. Fever – Usually there is a slight fever which can go even high as 39 to 40 degree centigrade
  2. Pain – Pain at the site of the injection usually lasts for 24 hours but can also last for up to one to two days

These are called minor side effects of DPT

However some children can also develop significant side effects. The significant side effects of the DPT vaccine are –

  1. The child may cry for a long period of time
  2. The child may get a fit
  3. The child may not respond to the parents

These are called major side effects. They are not very common – but if they occur – they require the immediate attention of the doctor.

DPT Vaccine for babies

DPT Vaccine for babies

Why does DPT vaccine cause pain and fever?

The purpose of giving the DPT vaccine is to help the body to develop immunity against the dangerous parts of the Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis bacteria without the child suffering the actual disease symptoms of these deadly diseases.

The vaccine contains the Diptheria and Tetanus toxoid and the inactivated bacteria of Pertussis

When the DPT vaccine is injected into the muscle of the child – the antigens from Diptheria Tetanus and Pertussis are deposited into the muscle of the child.

Pain – The body recognizes the harmful antigens and sends cells called macrophages to the site of injection to eat up the antigen. These cells arrive there in large numbers and cause swelling and pain at the site of injection because of the chemicals they secrete.

Fever – The body needs to build antibodies to protect the child against what it recognizes as infectious organisms. It takes some time to develop these antibodies so in the meanwhile substances called leukotrienes and cytokines are secreted. These raise the temperature of the body to make it difficult for the pathogen to survive. This is manifested as fever.

The pain subsides when the organism is removed from the site of injection by the macrophages. And the fever subsides when enough antibodies are manufactured to neutralize the infecting agents.

Also read How Long Does Viral Fever Last In Children (Toddlers and Babies)

What is the advantage of the acellular Pertussis vaccine or DPT – A?

To get rid of the two major side effects of DPT – W – a new product called Acellular vaccine was made. This is now called the DPT – A or the DTAP vaccine.

This DTAP has less chance of causing minor side effects like pain and fever – and also major side effects like prolonged crying and convulsions.


Which DPT vaccine should I give my child?

In our country the government as well as the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) which is the parent body of pediatricians recommends the whole cell vaccine or DPT – W because it is less expensive and because of the low cost – it can be given to all children.


It is important to vaccinate all children because completely vaccination roots out the germs from the entire population. Otherwise there may be a reservoir of infection from which children (and adults) can continue to get infected.


In terms of effectiveness however – there is no difference between the two vaccines. The painless DTAP vaccine is just as effective is the painful DTP – W vaccine.


You can give your child either DPT – W or DTAP so long as you give it in the right dose at the right time from an authorized vaccination center.


Why is DPT vaccine given in conjugation?

The DPT vaccine contains the inactivated toxins of Tetanus and Diptheria along with the bacteria that cause Pertussis. Inactivated toxins are called toxoids.


The Pertussis bacteria is used to increase the immune response of the body to the Tetanus and Diphtheria toxins so that a long lasting immunity is generated.


When a weak antigen that produces a poor immune response ( Diptheria toxoid and Tetatnus toxoid) is combined with a strong antigen that produces a strong immune response – in this case Pertussis bacteria (in DPT-W) or a part of the Pertussis bacteria (DPT – A) – the vaccine is called a conjugate vaccine.


DPT vaccine is given in conjugation to provide long lasting immunity against Diptheria, Pertussis and Tetanus to children taking the vaccine.


The version of the toxins used in the vaccine produce an immune reaction without causing the disease.

And the Pertussis bacteria used is inactivated and cannot cause disease.


The DTP – W uses the whole Pertussis bacteria and causes a very pronounced immune reaction with prominent side effects.


The DTP – A uses a part of the Pertussis bacteria and generates immunity without causing the side effects.


 DPT vaccine – schedule? Why is DPT given 3 times?


Children need to be protected from the deadly diseases as early as possible after birth.


To give early protection the first dose of the vaccine is given at the age of 6 weeks.

The second dose is given 1 month after the first dose and the third dose is given 1 month after the second dose.

The effect of these initial 3 doses of vaccine has to be boosted periodically.


The first booster is given at one and a half years, the second booster is given at five years and the third booster is given at ten years of age.


DPT Dose 1 – at age 6 weeks

DPT Dose 2 – at age 2 ½ months

DPT Dose 3 – at age 3 ½ months

DPT Dose 4 – at age 1 ½ year

DPT Dose 5 – at age 5 years

DPT Dose 6 – at age 10 years


The DPT vaccine is given three times to build up the store of antibodies and immune cells against the three bacteria – Diptheria Pertussis and Tetanus.

The vaccines are repeated two more times to boost the immunity already produced.


DPT vaccine benefits?


It is important to note that – not only does the DPT vaccine protect your child from these three deadly diseases – if the child has received these vaccines she/he does not need to take TT or other vaccines for Diphtheria or Tetanus periodically because she/he is well protected


So if your child has a small Injury – you need not rush to the doctor to give the TT injection if you have been following this schedule of DPT vaccination diligently .

Also read about the BCG vaccine, the Hepatitis B vaccine and the Hib and Meningcoccal vaccines

Painful vs Painless DPT vaccine – Should I give my child the painless or the painful DPT vaccine?


The DPT – A is a costly vaccine DPT – W is a cheaper vaccine. It is your choice which vaccine you give your child because both are equally effective in preventing the 3 deadly diseases.

Your doctor will give advice on both. You make the choice. Your choice – either of the two is

going to be the right choice.

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