Tetanus is a potentially fatal condition caused by Clostridium tetani, a bacterial toxin. Tetanus is also known as lockjaw, because it can cause jaw spasms and stiffness as early symptoms.
Medicare coverage for the tetanus vaccine
Medicare Part B is the part of original Medicare that covers medically necessary services and preventive care. Part B covers some vaccines as part of preventive care. These vaccines include:
- flu shot
- hepatitis B shot
- pneumonia shot
Part B covers the tetanus vaccine only when itâ€™s a medically necessary service due to an injury, such as a deep wound. It doesnâ€™t cover the tetanus vaccine as part of preventive care.
Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans must cover at least as much as original Medicare (parts A and B). For this reason, emergency tetanus shots must be covered by all Part C plans. If your Part C plan covers prescription drugs, it will also cover tetanus booster shots.
Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage for all commercially available shots that prevent illness or disease. This includes booster shots for tetanus.
How much does it cost?
Costs with Medicare coverage
If you need a tetanus shot because of an injury, youâ€™ll have to meet your Part B annual deductible of $198 before the cost of the shot will be covered. Medicare Part B will then cover 80 percent of the Medicare-approved cost, provided you get the shot from a Medicare-approved provider.
Youâ€™ll be responsible for 20 percent of the cost of the vaccine, as well as any related costs, such as your doctorâ€™s visit copay. If you have Medigap, these out-of-pocket cost may be covered by your plan.
If youâ€™re getting a tetanus booster shot and have Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D, your out-of-pocket costs may vary and will be determined by your plan. You can find out what your booster shot will cost by calling your insurer.
Costs without coverage
If you donâ€™t have prescription drug coverage, you can expect to pay around $50 for a tetanus booster shot. Because this shot is recommended only once every 10 years, this cost is relatively low.
However, if you cannot afford the cost of this vaccine and your doctor recommends it for you, donâ€™t let cost be a deterrent. There are coupons available online for this medication. The manufacturer of Boostrix, the most commonly prescribed tetanus vaccine in the U.S., has a patient assistance program, which may lower the cost for you.
Other cost considerations
There may be additional administrative costs when you get the vaccine. These are often standardized costs included in your doctorâ€™s visit fee such as your doctorâ€™s time, practice expenses, and professional insurance liability costs.
Why would I need a tetanus vaccine?
What they do
Tetanus vaccines are made from inactivated tetanus toxin, which is injected into the arm or thigh. An inactivated toxin is known as a toxoid. Once injected, the toxoid helps the body generate an immune response to tetanus.
The bacteria that causes tetanus lives in dirt, dust, soil, and animal feces. A puncture wound can potentially cause tetanus if bacteria gets under the skin. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s important to keep up with your shots and seek care for any wounds that might cause tetanus.
Some common potential causes of tetanus include:
- puncture wounds from body piercings or tattoos
- dental infections
- surgical wounds
- bites from people, insects, or animals
If you have a deep or dirty wound and itâ€™s been five years or more since you had a tetanus shot, call your doctor. You will most likely need an emergency booster as a safeguard.
When theyâ€™re given
In the United States, most infants receive a tetanus shot, along with inoculation against two other bacterial illnesses, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). This childhood vaccine is known as a DTaP. The DTaP vaccine contains full-strength dosages of each toxoid. Itâ€™s given as a series of five shots, beginning at two months of age and ending when a child is four to six years old.
Based on vaccine history, a booster vaccine will be given again at around 11 years or older. This vaccine is called a Tdap. Tdap vaccines contain full- strength tetanus toxoid, plus lower dosages of toxoid for diphtheria and pertussis.
Adults may receive a Tdap vaccine or a version that contains no pertussis protection, known as a Td. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. However, one recent study indicates that booster shots provide no extra benefit for people who were vaccinated regularly as children.
Possible side effects
As with any vaccine, side effects are possible. Minor side effects include:
- discomfort, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- mild fever
- body aches
- vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea
On rare occasions, the tetanus vaccine can cause a serious allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention.
What is tetanus?
Tetanus is a serious infection that can be painful and long-lasting. It affects the bodyâ€™s nervous system and can cause severe complications if left untreated. Tetanus can also cause trouble breathing and even cause death.
Thanks to vaccinations, there are only around 30 cases of tetanus reported in the United States each year.
Symptoms of tetanus include:
- painful muscle spasms in the stomach
- muscle contractions or spasms in the neck and jaw
- trouble breathing or swallowing
- muscle stiffness throughout the body
- fever and sweating
- elevated blood pressure
- rapid heart rate
Serious complications include:
- involuntary, uncontrollable tightening of the vocal chords
- broken or fractured bones in the spine, legs, or other areas of the body, caused by severe convulsions
- pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs)
- inability to breathe, which can be fatal
Seek immediate medical attention if you have any symptoms of tetanus.
Regular vaccinations and good wound care are important for avoiding tetanus. However, if you have a deep or dirty wound, call your doctor to have it evaluated. Your doctor can decide if a booster shot is necessary.
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