Medication Search​ - Adacel

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Common Name:

pertussis - diphtheria - tetanus vaccine


How does Adacel work? What will it do for me?

This medication belongs to a group of medications known as vaccines. It is used to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) for people 4 years of age and older.

This vaccine increases a person’s defences against pertussis infection and against the toxins produced by tetanus and diphtheria bacteria. It works by introducing very small amounts of bacterial and toxin components into the bloodstream. Only certain parts of the bacteria are used (therefore they are not alive), and the toxins have been detoxified. Still, these components are enough to stimulate the production of a person’s own antibodies (cells designed to attack that particular bacteria or toxin), which will remain in the body ready to attack any future bacteria that may cause infection and deal with the toxins produced during tetanus or diphtheria infection.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does Adacel come in?

Each dose (0.5 mL) of a sterile, uniform, cloudy, white suspension contains tetanus toxoid 5 Lf , diphtheria toxoid 2 Lf , pertussis toxoid (PT) 2.5 µg, filamentous haemagglutinin (FHA) 5 µg, pertactin (PRN) 3 µg, fimbriae types 2 and 3 (FIM) 5 µg, aluminum phosphate (adjuvant) 1.5 mg, and 0.6% (v/v) 2-phenoxyethanol. Manufacturing process residuals: formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde are present in trace amounts.

How should I use Adacel?

This medication is given as an injection into a muscle (usually on the upper arm), usually in a doctor’s office.

It is important this vaccine be given exactly as recommended by your doctor. If you miss an appointment to receive this vaccine, contact your doctor as soon as possible to reschedule your appointment. All vaccines should be added to your immunization record.

Keep this medication in the fridge and out of the reach of children. Do not freeze.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take Adacel?

Do not use this vaccine if you:

  • are allergic to any ingredients of this medication
  • had a previous encephalopathy (a condition affecting the brain) within 7 days of a previous pertussis vaccine
  • had a previous episode of thrombocytopenia (decrease in platelets) or neurologic complication following a previous diphtheria and/or tetanus vaccine
  • have an acute illness (except for minor illnesses without fever, such as an upper respiratory tract infection)
  • have had an allergic reaction to other tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis vaccines

What side effects are possible with Adacel?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • loss of appetite
  • lump at place of injection
  • mild fever
  • nausea
  • redness, swelling, tenderness, or pain at place of injection

Although most of the side effects listed below don’t happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • confusion
  • severe headache
  • severe or continuing vomiting
  • unusual irritability
  • unusual sleepiness

Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • collapse
  • convulsions (seizures)
  • crying for 3 or more hours
  • periods of unconsciousness or lack of awareness
  • severe fever (fever of 105°F [40.5°C] or more)
  • symptoms of a serious allergic reaction (such as hives, difficulty breathing, itchy rash on the hands or feet, or swelling of the face or throat)

Be sure to mention any side effect to your doctor, as it may mean that you are allergic to the vaccine. If so, it would not be safe for you to have more doses of the same type of vaccine.

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for Adacel?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Allergic reactions: Rarely, this vaccine may cause severe allergic reactions. For this reason, doctors often ask you to stay in the office for about 30 minutes after having the vaccine so that you can get medical care if you have an allergic reaction. If you notice the signs of a severe allergic reaction (hives; trouble breathing or swallowing; or swelling of the lips, face, throat, or tongue), get medical attention immediately.

Immune system: As with any vaccine, this vaccine may not be as effective for people with a weakened immune system (such as those who are on chemotherapy, who have had an organ transplant, or who have HIV).

Medical conditions: If you bruise easily, have a neurological disorder, have a bleeding problem, have a high fever, have poorly controlled epilepsy, have had an allergic reaction to other vaccines, or have a family history of seizures, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Vaccine protection: As with any vaccine, this vaccine may not protect 100% of people who receive it.

Pregnancy: This vaccine should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you discover you may have been pregnant when you received this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if this vaccine passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

What other drugs could interact with Adacel?

There may be an interaction between the pertussis – diphtheria – tetanus vaccine and any of the following:

  • acetaminophen
  • immunosuppressive therapy (e.g., some medications used for the treatment of cancer, or for transplant recipients, or immune conditions)
    • azathioprine
    • corticosteroids (e.g., budesonide, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, fluticasone, prednisone)
    • cyclosporine
    • fingolimod
    • glatiramer
    • hydroxyurea
    • imiquimod
    • medications to treat cancer (e.g., carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, ifosfamide, vincristine)
    • momoclonal antibodies (e.g., belimumab, eculizumab, golimumab, infliximab)
    • mycophenolate
    • tacrolimus
    • tofacitinib
  • other vaccines
  • warfarin

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.

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