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Vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and poliomyelitis



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Diphtheria is a nose and throat infection caused by diphtheria bacteria. The bacteria release toxins that can cause swelling in the throat so it becomes difficult to breathe. The toxins can also attack the heart, kidney and nervous tissue and impair their function. The disease can be fatal. During and just after the Second World War, there were diphtheria epidemics in Norway. After vaccination was introduced in 1952, only a few cases of the disease have occurred after infection abroad. Diphtheria continues to occur in parts of Europe and other parts of the world.


Tetanus is caused by a bacterium that can be found in soil. Infection can occur when the bacterium comes into contact with wounds. The disease is not transmitted from person to person. The bacteria release toxins that attack the nervous system and cause muscle stiffness and painful cramps. The disease is highly fatal. It is rarer in the Nordic countries than in warmer regions.

Whooping cough (Pertussis)

Whooping cough is a prolonged (6–12 weeks) airway infection with severe fits of coughing. Whooping cough can cause brain damage due to lack of oxygen during coughing fits, and in rare cases, death. It can be particularly dangerous for infants. In older children and adults, the disease can be prolonged and bothersome, but is rarely life-threatening. The disease is extremely contagious – nearly 100 % of the population had the disease before we began to vaccinate. 


Poliomyelitis is a viral disease that usually results in cold-like symptoms, body aches or diarrhoea. It can cause inflammation of the brain membrane (meningitis) and attack nerve cells, leading to permanent paralysis. Fatalities do occur. Before vaccination began in 1957, there were annual polio epidemics in Norway in which several hundred children and adolescents were permanently paralysed. Up to 10 % died. After vaccination was introduced, the disease has been under control in Norway and several other countries. Europe was declared free of polio in 2002, but the disease still occurs in several countries in Africa and Asia. Unvaccinated people can become infected while travelling and can infect other unvaccinated people on their return.

Booster doses against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio are recommended for adults every 10 years.  

Four-component vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and poliomyelitis

The vaccines against diphtheria and tetanus are based on toxins produced by the bacteria but without their toxic effect. The whooping cough vaccine contains purified fragments of the whooping cough bacterium. The polio vaccine contains three types of killed polio virus that can cause disease in humans. 

None of the vaccine components are live. 

Common side-effects

Redness, swelling and tenderness around the injection site also occur in less than 1 in 10 children and may last for several days. Major, painful reactions are rare. 

General side-effects such as headache, tiredness, drowsiness, feeling ill or a fever are less common. Contact a doctor if there is a high fever because this may be due to another cause that requires treatment.

The vaccine used in the 2nd grade is called Tetravac and the one used in 10th grade is called Boostrix polio.