This vaccine can help protect your child against 4 serious diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio.

Diphtheria is caused by bacteria (Corynebacterium diphtheriae) and spread through coughing, sneezing, and close contact with droplets from an infected person's mouth, nose, throat, or skin. It causes fever, sore throat, and swollen neck glands. It can also cause patches of grey or black fuzzy pus to form in the throat. These patches can grow together into a large membrane that blocks off the windpipe, causing suffocation. Diphtheria can also cause heart damage, nerve damage, kidney damage, paralysis, and death.

Tetanus is caused by bacteria (Clostridium tetani) found in soil, dust, manure, and saliva. Tetanus is not spread from person to person. Instead, it happens when an open wound (usually a deep cut, such as a knife wound or stepping on a rusty nail) is contaminated with soil containing the tetanus bacteria. The bacteria produce a poison that causes painful muscle spasms. The muscle spasms often start in the jaw (which is why tetanus is sometimes called "lockjaw") and can spread to the rest of the body. This can cause difficulty swallowing, suffocation, and death.

Pertussis is caused by bacteria (Bordatella pertussis) and it is spread by coughing and sneezing. It causes severe coughing that can lead to vomiting and choking and interfere with breathing. The disease is also called "whooping cough" because of the whooping sound the child makes after a coughing spell. Sometimes pertussis can cause seizures, brain damage, or pneumonia.

Polio is caused by a virus (poliovirus) and is spread through food or water that has become contaminated with an infected person's stool (poop). It can cause fever, neck and back stiffness, sore throat, headache, and fatigue. It can also cause permanent muscle weakness and paralysis. About 1 in 100 people who get polio become permanently paralyzed.

There are different vaccines available for these diseases:

  • DTaP-IPV (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, inactivated polio) vaccine: used for infants and young children (under the age of 7)
  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine: used for adolescents who received the DTaP-IPV vaccine earlier in life, or for people over 7 years of age who did not receive the DTaP-IPV vaccine
  • Td (tetanus and diphtheria) vaccine: given to adults, usually every 10 years, as a "booster shot" to keep up immunity to tetanus and diphtheria

For maximum protection, your child will need to receive all vaccine doses on time. Health Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that most infants and children receive 4 or 5 doses of the DTaP-IPV vaccine, depending on the age the fourth dose was given. Each province or territory has slightly different recommendations on when vaccine doses should be given. See the immunization schedule for your province or territory, or talk to your child's health care professional to find out when your child should receive their doses to get full vaccine coverage.

The diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio vaccine is not intended to be used for treatment of active infection. As with other vaccines, this vaccine may not protect 100% of people who receive it, and it may cause side effects.