Everyone knows that mf you step on a rusty nail you'd better get a tetanus shot, right? Well, my gut was has been saying no for this vaccine, but I honestly wasn't sure what I'd do if one of my outdoor roaming kids came home with a dirty, nasty cut. So I decided to do some research…mune
Tetanus, sometimes called ‘lockjaw', is caused when the tetanus bacteria (Clostridium tetani) gets in the blood stream and releases a nervous system toxin called tetanospasmin.
Most tetanus comes from soil, animal feces or dust. Puncture wounds are notable because tetanus-harboring dirt or dust collected on the sharp object can be driven into the body. The nail is simply the carrier of the bacteria into the body’s blood stream. (source)
When there's enough oxygen to a wound, the tetanus bacteria can't survive and its toxin won't proliferate. In cases when there's a lack of oxygen (like a deep puncture wound) the bacteria thrives, the infected person may experience stiffening of the jaw and other major muscles, severe muscle spasms, headaches, fever, trouble swallowing, and even death. (source)
Tetanus sound serious – so why in the world won't I be giving my kids this shot or getting a booster if I get a dirty puncture wound?
5 Reasons I'll just say NO to a tetanus shot
#1 – The tetanus vaccine does not guarantee immunity
According to the CDC's recommendations, kids today should get the tetanus vaccine in the same shot as diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) – a.k.a. the DTaP, administered in five doses before the age of seven. As with any vaccination, the ‘immunity' is not permanent, so regular boosters are necessary after the age of 11.
The tetanus vaccine has not changed the course of the disease:
I've shown charts like this before, and they are striking. As you can see above, the tetanus vaccine was only routinely administered starting in 1961 in the UK (source), however, the rate of tetanus-related deaths had been plummeting for the previous sixty years. This indicates that there was something more at hand other than the tetanus vaccine when it came to reducing incidents of tetanus. Better wound cleaning hygiene perhaps?
(Note: The US versions of this graph tend to conveniently lop off the first part of the century making the drop in disease seem more drastic. Check it out here.)
A 1992 report in The Journal of Neurology found that “severe (grade III) tetanus occurred in three immunized patients who had high serum levels of anti-tetanus antibody.” Regardless of their supposed vaccine protection, one of the patients in the study died as a result of tetanus. While this is obviously a small sampling, it still doesn't earn the tetanus shot a big vote of confidence for me.
Is natural immunity possible?
According to this article by my friend Heather of Mommypotamus, there are numerous studies that show that populations of unvaccinated people have high levels of anti-toxin granting them natural immunity without ever having a single dose of medication or getting tetanus by gradually and unintentionally ingesting the tetanus bacteria in day-to-day living.
While eating spoonfuls of tetanus laden dirt is not necessarily a good solution, this gets me thinking – given the right support, doesn't it make sense that a healthy human should be able to fight off the complications from tetanus in the bloodstream? Hang on! We'll get to that…
#2 – The vaccine is packed with toxins
A tetanus shot is created by using the tetanospasmin toxin to produce an anti-toxin. When the vaccine enters the bloodstream it’s supposed to alert the body to produce antibodies that protect against the tetanus bacteria if it ever presents itself.
In addition to the anti-toxin, a tetanus vaccine contains formaldehyde (preservative), thimerosal (antiseptic and antifungal containing mercury), aluminum phosphate (adjuvant), dibasic sodium phosphate (acidic medium), and sodium phosphate monobasic (fungicidal). (source). Yuck.
Besides the inherent risks of ingesting toxins like formaldehyde, mercury, and aluminum, let's discuss why these toxins are especially risky…
#3 – Vaccines may contribute to acute and chronic health issues
Vaccines are considered effective when they raise the antibody titer (the number of good guys fighting the bad). The trouble with this fact is that all the toxic substances in the vaccine (see the partial list above) will cause a rise in antibodies, so there’s no way to ensure that these antibodies will correctly target the pathogen in question – in this case, tetanus.
When a healthy person gets sick, the body has a natural immune response which triggers the first line of defense (innate immune response) that then call the second line of defense (adaptive immune response) into action and raise the antibody response. Vaccines shortcut the initial inflammatory response and directly stimulate the adaptive immune system.
Instead of protecting against tetanus, the elevated antibodies may create an autoimmune response where the body is actually weakened from the vaccine leading to more susceptibility to infection and chronic illness. (source)
In a preliminary study done on eleven healthy adults, results indicated severe immune system repression after tetanus shot boosters, and shockingly “T-helper cells fell to levels found in active AIDS patients.” (source)
The point is, vaccines can wreak havoc on your immune system – exactly the opposite of what they are intended to do.
#4 – Proper wound cleaning can greatly reduce the likelihood of infection
The most important thing to do when you’ve potentially been exposed to tetanus is to fully clean the wound to reduce the potential for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Allowing the wound to bleed for a short time will help remove debris and introduce oxygen which will kill the tetanus bacteria.
Some doctors suggest using hydrogen peroxide, but washing it out with clean running water and soap can be just as effective at removing the particulate material.
You also can use colloidal silver topically on the wound to help kill bacteria. Read more about how colloidal silver works in this post.
#5 – Getting a tetanus vaccine when infected will not halt the disease
It is still possible to contract tetanus when microscopic particles of the toxin are left behind. In cases where the wound doesn’t bleed or you think you may not have gotten all debris out of the wound, you may need to get a shot.
A tetanus vaccine takes weeks in order for your body to make sufficient antibodies (if they will even work at all). In the case of probable tetanus, you will need an anti-toxin serum called the Tetanus Immunoglobulin (TiG) shot.
Is the TiG shot safe?
The answer to that question could be a post unto itself, but for now, suffice it to say that if my child's life was at risk, I would probably take the chances of the TiG shot – a proactive decision, rather than one made purely out of fear of a hypothetical outcome.
That said, there are a few alternatives:
The homeopathic nosode: Tetanus Tetanotoxinum is a homeopathic vaccine which you can obtain from a trained homeopathic doctor. While nosodes have no known side effects, they also aren't backed by much research since there is no potential benefit to big pharma or other high rollers if a remedy like this proves effective.
You can read more about homeopathic vaccines in this post.
IV Magnesium: This study showed that intravenous magnesium is effective in treating tetanus as well, though I wish you luck finding a doctor who will try it if you wander into urgent care with a puncture wound.
Thankfully, it's your choice if or when to get a tetanus shot or give this vaccine to your children, but hopefully, after reading this you will feel more informed about when to get a tetanus shot or whether to get one at all.