Discover the need for tetanus vaccination among high-risk populations and the critical importance of immunization. Learn where to access vaccines and how to protect yourself from this disease.
In 2022, a 42-year-old man entered an Oregon hospital’s emergency department after two days of pain in his back, arms and neck and difficulty opening his mouth. He was diagnosed with tetanus, also known as “lockjaw,” and had no known history of being vaccinated against tetanus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published an article about the case, highlighting the disproportionate impact of tetanus on certain populations and the importance of all people to get vaccinated against the disease.
Tetanus and high-risk populations: addressing disproportionate impact
Migrants from Latin American countries, including Mexico, typically have lower vaccination coverage than non-migrant populations and often work in professions where the risk of injuries resulting in tetanus is greater, such as construction and agriculture. Other high-risk professions include health care workers, firefighters, animal herders, veterinarians and any work that involves the slaughtering, butchering or skinning of animals.
Tetanus vaccination: ensuring protection for vulnerable groups
Others at high risk for tetanus include those with a history of immune-suppressing medical conditions, intravenous drug users, gardeners and campers.
Tetanus is a serious disease caused by a toxin that attacks the central nervous system. The toxin is produced by bacteria found everywhere in soil and can infect the body through a break in the skin, such as a cut or puncture wound caused by a contaminated object such as a nail. Tetanus vaccines are extremely effective at preventing infection.
Tetanus vaccination outreach: reaching high-risk individuals for immunization
It is recommended that everyone, starting at age 2 months, be vaccinated against tetanus. For adults, a tetanus booster is recommended every 10 years. Talk to your health care provider about whether you are up to date on tetanus vaccinations. If you don’t remember when you got your last tetanus booster, it is recommended and safe to get one at any time.
Most private health insurance plans cover tetanus vaccinations, as does Medicare Part D and Oregon Health Plan. Check with your insurance provider on whether there is any cost to you and for a list of in-network vaccine providers. People without insurance should check with their local public health department or Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) for availability of low- or no-cost tetanus vaccinations. A list of Oregon’s FQHCs can be found here.
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