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With more than 35 million Hispanics in the United States (U.S.), the Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) is taking steps to draw attention among this group about the importance of staying current on adult vaccines, such as the tetanus and diphtheria booster.


Hitting the Airwaves

VNAA is launching a Spanish-language media campaign about the importance of adolescent and adult tetanus and diphtheria booster vaccinations. The initiative coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15, 2004). VNAA spokespersons will conduct interviews on this topic with Spanish-language radio stations, newspapers, and magazines.


Lower Levels Reported in Specific Hispanic Groups

Mexican-Americans are 8% less likely than non-Hispanic whites or blacks to be protected against tetanus, and as much as 9% less likely to be protected against diphtheria (CDC, 2003).


Gaps also have been reported in Mexican-American women, with only 45% and 41% protected against tetanus and diphtheria, respectively. This compares to 61% and 51% protection against both diseases in non-Hispanic white women; and 58% and 52% in non-Hispanic black women, respectively (CDC, 2003).


Any Wound Presents a Risk for Tetanus

Many people are unaware that even minor wounds can lead to tetanus. Tetanus bacteria are widespread in the environment and can be found in soil, dust, and animals. Any open wound may present an opportunity for the bacteria to enter the body.


Diphtheria No Laughing Matter

Diphtheria is of concern among this population because many people of Hispanic descent travel to their native countries, or are visited from persons living abroad, where the disease is still a serious public health problem.


Boosters Needed Throughout Life

Protection from initial vaccination wanes over time, requiring booster shots throughout a person's lifetime. CDC recommends that all adults and adolescents maintain protection with a booster every 10 years.


For adolescents and adults who have never received a primary series, CDC recommends that three doses be administered to provide protection; the first two doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart, and the third dose should be given 6 to 12 months after the second (CDC, 2004). Protection also is maintained with a 10-year booster.


Nearly all reported cases of tetanus occur in persons who have either never been vaccinated, or those who completed a primary series but have not had a booster vaccination in the decade.


More Information

For more information on VNAA or tetanus and diphtheria background, visit




Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2003). Tetanus surveillance-United States, 1998-2000. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 52(SS-3), 1-12. [Context Link]


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2004). Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule by age group and medical conditions, United States, 2003-2004. Retrieved August 10, 2004 from[Context Link]