DHHS Program Offers Tetanus Vaccines to NCDOT Employees Responding to Disasters

Man receiving vaccination from doctor

Feb. 5, 2019 – The risk for injury during and after a natural disaster is high. In preparation for future disaster response efforts, NCDHHS’ Immunization Program is providing booster doses of state-supplied tetanus vaccine to N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) employees working as disaster responders. 

A Td or Tdap vaccine ensures adequate protection against tetanus exposure from wounds that may occur while working in and around flood waters and other disaster areas. NC DOT disaster response workers are eligible to receive Td/Tdap vaccine, whichever is indicated, at all local health departments in North Carolina free of charge through May 31. 

The Td vaccine protects against two potentially life-threatening bacterial infections, tetanus and diphtheria, while the Tdap vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). 

Disaster response workers should receive a tetanus booster if they have not been vaccinated for tetanus during the past 10 years.

“Tetanus is a potentially serious health threat to anyone who sustains a wound injury while working in or around flood waters and other natural disasters,” said Wendy Holmes, head of the N.C. Immunization Branch. “The good news is that tetanus is nearly 100 percent preventable with vaccination.”

The danger of tetanus and other related illnesses is not limited to disaster relief workers. Everyone should receive a series of tetanus shots during childhood and adolescence. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends adults get Td boosters every 10 years. A person with a puncture or deep wound should get a tetanus booster if it has been five or more years since their last tetanus vaccine.

Public health officials recommend that everyone take steps before a disaster hits, such as reviewing personal vaccination records to determine if they have had the Td or Tdap vaccine within the past 10 years.

Individuals who do not have a complete record of their vaccination history should ask their physician for a copy or contact the local health department in the county where they reside and ask if their records are available through the North Carolina Immunization Registry (NCIR).

Anyone who is unable to find their vaccination record, should get a Td or Tdap vaccine before being exposed to flood waters, if possible. While this is not ideal, it is safe to repeat vaccinations when records cannot be found.

Scott Coleman