Getting your diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (dTpa) vaccination at school — what to expect

Vaccination is a simple and clever way to protect you from serious diseases now and later in your life.


Hi! My name is Caroline. I’m a registered nurse — just like the one you’re about to see for your vaccination. I’m going to tell you how vaccination protects you and why it’s important, what vaccines you will receive and what to expect on vaccination day.

Vaccination is a simple and clever way to protect you from serious diseases now and later in your life. It not only helps protect you, but it also protects the community around you by helping to stop the spread of diseases.

All vaccines work in the same way. A vaccine is a dead or weakened version of a bacteria or a virus that tricks our bodies into building immunity against that bacteria or virus. Our immune system remembers this and is able to quickly fight the real disease if we come into contact with it in the future.

Vaccination is the best way to protect you from many serious diseases. Some vaccines offer lifelong protection. In other cases ‘booster’ or extra doses are needed to continue to provide you with protection. You may not have heard of some of the diseases before, because they are no longer very common.  And this is because we keep vaccinating against them.

Today you'll be receiving a dTpa vaccine.

The dTpa ‘booster’ vaccine stands for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. These are the three potentially deadly bacterial diseases the vaccine protects you from.

Diphtheria is a respiratory disease that can cause breathing problems, severe weakness of the muscles, heart failure, and death. It spreads very easily by coughing and sneezing.

Tetanus is caused by a bacteria often found in soil. Once it enters the body through cuts and scratches, it releases a toxin that attacks the brain and nerves, causing muscle spasms and death if left untreated.

Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) is very easily spread and causes coughing spasms so severe that in infants it makes it difficult to eat, drink, or even breathe. It can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death. By getting vaccinated and helping to prevent the spread of whooping cough, you are protecting young babies who haven’t yet had a chance to get vaccinated.

The dTpa ‘booster’ vaccine protects against, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. A booster is an extra dose of a vaccine that you have had before when you were younger. It boosts the immune system, and helps you stay protected throughout your teenage years into adulthood.

This vaccine is being provided to students in schools across Australia. A single injection of the dTpa vaccine is given to you. Depending on which state or territory you live in, this is in either year 7 or 8 aged 12-13 years.

“Yesterday the teacher told us to wear short sleeves and eat a good breakfast.”

“Drink lots of water,”

“And make sure you pack yourself a decent lunch.”

When it’s time to get your vaccination, you will be taken into an area to see a nurse. There may be other students in the room already with other nurses.

The nurse will ask you some questions about you and your health including your name, date of birth and address.

The nurse will check that your consent form has been signed by your parent or carer. Ask if you are feeling well today, and if you have any allergies.

The nurse may also have to ask some questions that may seem silly to you but it’s important they know the true answers so they can make sure you’re ok to have your vaccination today.

“She gave me this stress ball to calm down and relax.”

“Thinking about something else, and not about the needle.”

“I just played with a little toy and wiggled my toes just to distract myself a bit.”

“She told me to move my shoulder to make it feel better, and go sit down afterwards for 15 minutes and tell her after if I’m not feeling well.”

“Just to keep your shoulders down, and keep your hand relaxed so it keeps the muscle nice and soft.”

The nurse will then give you the vaccine in your upper arm.

Whilst getting your vaccine you may feel a little pinch, sting, tingle or even a mozzie bite sensation. It is important to remember that the more relaxed and distracted you are, the less you will feel.

You'll then need to wait for 15 minutes after you've had the vaccine to make sure you’re feeling well.

Well done! You did it!

“It was alright, I felt a little bit of a pinch but it wasn’t too bad overall.”

“In the end, I was fine!”

“It was good, it didn’t hurt too much.”

“I over thought it because I thought it was going to hurt a lot but it turned out it was only a little pinch.”

Remember, vaccination is safe, and it helps protect you, and the rest of the community, from serious diseases.

If you want to find out more about immunisation visit the website.

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Vaccination is a simple and clever way to protect you from serious diseases now and later in your life.

Clinical nurse Caroline Scott explains how vaccination protects you, why it’s important, and what to expect when you receive your diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis dTpa vaccination at school.


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