Do I need a tetanus jab (vaccine) after an accident or injury?

You may need a tetanus jab (vaccine) if the injury has broken your skin and your tetanus vaccinations aren't up to date.


Tetanus is a serious condition. If treated, it's usually a short-term condition. However, without treatment, tetanus can be fatal.

Tetanus is caused by infection with Clostridium tetani bacteria. These bacteria can enter your body through a wound or cut in your skin. They are often found in soil and manure. For more information, see When do tetanus symptoms show up after an injury?

UK vaccination programme

The UK has a vaccination programme against tetanus.

A full course of tetanus vaccination consists of five doses of the vaccine. This should be enough to give you long-term protection from tetanus. However, if you’re not sure how many doses you’ve received, you may need a booster dose after an injury that breaks your skin.

If you’ve definitely received five doses of the tetanus vaccine, you are fully vaccinated and don’t need a booster dose.   

Risk of tetanus

You may have a higher risk of being infected with tetanus if the wound:

  • is deep
  • gets dirty with soil or manure

However, even small wounds, such as a prick from a thorn, can allow enough bacteria to get into your body to cause tetanus. 

If you’ve got a cut or a wound, clean it thoroughly as soon as possible to prevent infection. As long as you’re fully vaccinated, you won’t need another tetanus jab. If you don’t know whether you’re fully vaccinated, see your GP as you may need a booster dose. 

If you have a tetanus-prone wound, get medical treatment as soon as possible, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated.

What are tetanus-prone wounds?

Public Health England defines tetanus-prone wounds as:

  • wounds or burns that need surgery, but where surgery cannot be performed within 24 hours 
  • wounds or burns where a significant amount of tissue has been removed, or puncture-type injuries (such as animal bites), particularly if they have had contact with soil or manure
  • wounds containing foreign bodies (any substance that shouldn’t be there, such as dust or dirt)
  • compound fractures (serious fractures where the bone is exposed and prone to infection)
  • wounds and burns in people who have systemic sepsis (a fall in blood pressure resulting from a serious bacterial infection)

 If you have a tetanus-prone wound and it’s considered to be high risk, treatment with tetanus immunoglobulin (TIG) is recommended. TIG is a solution containing antibodies (infection-fighting cells) that kill the tetanus bacteria.

You will need TIG even if you’re fully vaccinated against tetanus

Read the answers to more questions about vaccinations

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 16/01/2014

Next review due: 15/01/2016