DTP vaccine

The DTP vaccine provides protection against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. The vaccine is usually given in S3 (around 14 years old). Find out when and where to get it.

What the DTP vaccine is for

The DTP vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. These are serious diseases.

You need a total of 5 doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccine to build up immunity and give you longer-term protection.

You should have had:

  • the first 3 doses as a baby
  • the fourth dose before you started primary school (after turning 3 years and 4 months)

You should have the fifth dose in S3 (around 14 years old).

What’s diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a serious disease that usually begins with a sore throat. It can quickly cause breathing problems. It can also damage the heart and nervous system, and in severe cases, can kill. Diphtheria is passed from person to person through close contact.

Before the diphtheria vaccine was introduced in the UK, there were up to 70,000 cases of diphtheria a year. These caused around 5,000 deaths.

What’s tetanus?

Tetanus is a painful disease affecting the nervous system that can lead to:

  • muscle spasms
  • breathing problems
  • death

It’s caused by germs found in soil and manure getting into the body through open cuts or burns.

Tetanus can’t be passed from person to person.

Learn more about tetanus

What’s polio?

Polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system and can cause permanent paralysis of muscles. If it affects the chest muscles or the brain, polio can kill. The polio virus is usually spread from person to person or by swallowing contaminated food or water.

Before the polio vaccine was introduced, there were as many as 8,000 cases in the UK during the polio epidemic.

More about polio

Who can get the DTP vaccine

All young people in S3 (around 14 years old) are eligible for the vaccination. This is part of their routine immunisation schedule.

If you were immunised as a child

The DTP vaccine completes the 5 dose course against diphtheria, tetanus and polio.

Although you’ve already had 4 doses of diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccines, you need a total of 5 to build up your immunity and provide longer-term protection.

Reasons you should not have the vaccine

There are very few young people who can’t have the DTP vaccine. You shouldn’t have the vaccine if you’ve had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to:

  • a previous vaccine
  • any ingredient of the vaccine
  • neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin B (antibiotics that may be added to vaccines in very tiny amounts)
If you have a bleeding disorder

If you have a bleeding disorder, tell the person giving you the vaccine. They’ll give the injection in a slightly different way that will be better for you.

About the DTP vaccine

The REVAXIS vaccine is routinely used in Scotland.

The DTP vaccine is not a live vaccine. It cannot cause the diseases it protects against.

The DTP vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect against serious diseases.

Ingredients of the DTP vaccine

You can view the vaccine ingredients in the patient information leaflet:

If you have questions about the vaccine or its ingredients, speak to a health professional or your local NHS immunisation team.

How many doses of the DTP vaccine do you need?

In most cases, you’ll only need 1 dose of the DTP vaccine at around 14 years old. However, you may need extra doses of some vaccines if you’re visiting certain countries.

Read more about the vaccinations you may need when travelling abroad

Vaccine safety

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness. The vaccine meets the high safety standards required for use in the UK and other European countries. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.

Once they’re in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored.

Read more about how we know vaccines are safe

How to get the DTP vaccine

You’ll be offered the DTP vaccine when you’re in S3 (around 14 years of age) at school. Vaccines are given by your local NHS immunisation team. Your school will tell you when vaccination sessions are taking place.

Find out more about the vaccinations you’ll be offered at school

If you have any questions on the day, you can speak to the person giving you the vaccine.

If you’re ill on the day of your vaccination

If you have a minor illness without a fever, like a cold, you should have the immunisation.

If you’re ill with a fever, delay the immunisation until you’ve recovered. This prevents:

  • your fever being mistaken for a vaccine side effect
  • the vaccine increasing the fever you already have
If you missed your vaccination at school

If you miss your DTP vaccination, there’ll be further opportunities to get it. For example, you may be offered a rescheduled vaccination appointment next year.

If you’re unsure if you’ve missed any other vaccines, you should first check your red book. If you do not have a red book, or it has gone missing, you can check with your local NHS immunisation team.

Read more about how to get a vaccination

Young people not in mainstream education

You’re also eligible for the DTP vaccine if you’re:

  • educated at home
  • not in mainstream education

Please contact your local NHS immunisation team to arrange your appointment.

If you don’t know if you’ve had all your doses

If you’re unsure if you’ve missed any other vaccines, you should first check your red book. If you do not have a red book, or it has gone missing, you can check with your local NHS immunisation team.

Q&A with a vaccinator

This video answers some common questions you may have about the vaccines you’ll be offered at school. 

The vaccine consent form

You should be given a consent form and leaflet by your school. You and your parent or carer should chat about the information. Both you and your parent or carer should sign the consent form and return it to your school. You should return the consent form even if you’re not going to have the vaccine.

It’s recommended you get agreement from your parent or carer, but it isn’t always necessary.

Get more information on young people’s right to consent

Side effects of the DTP vaccine

After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

The most common side effects of the DTP vaccine are usually felt around the area of the arm where you have had the injection. These can include:

  • soreness
  • swelling
  • redness
  • stinging
  • itching
  • bruising

If you do experience any of these side effects, they’ll wear off after a couple of days.

Other common side effects include:

  • fever
  • sickness
  • dizziness
  • muscle aches
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • drowsiness
  • loss of appetite
  • rash
  • swollen glands
  • irritability

Very rarely, some people can have a severe reaction soon after vaccination, which causes breathing difficulties and may cause them to collapse. This is called an anaphylactic reaction. These reactions are extremely rare and the person giving you the vaccine is fully trained to deal with them.

If you feel unwell after vaccination

If you feel unwell after vaccination, you can rest and take paracetamol. Make sure you read the instructions on the packet carefully and take the correct dose for your age.

It’s not recommended that you take these medicines in advance to prevent a fever from developing.

Do not take medicines containing aspirin if you’re under 16.

Phone 999 immediately if:

  • you or your child is having a fit

Phone your GP immediately if:

  • you or your child has a temperature of 39°C or above

If your GP practice is closed, phone 111. If you have any concerns, trust your instincts.

Reporting side effects

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Vaccine Safety Net

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net