A dirty wound or animal bite can expose a person to tetanus - make sure you are protected by a vaccination throughout your life

Publication date 25 Apr 2022

woman with a dirty garden knife.

Tetanus is a serious disease that can be effectively prevented with vaccinations. However, adults should regularly get boosters to strengthen the vaccine they received as a child.  

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is caused by the Clostridium tetani bacterium, which is commonly found in soil and animal intestines. Tetanus can be contracted through a cut, broken skin or from an animal bite. The disease symptoms include painful muscle spasms. If left untreated, the disease will lead to death, and even out of patients who receive treatment, 1–2 out of ten die.

In countries such as Finland, cases are fortunately rare thanks to high vaccination coverage and high levels of hygiene. We usually see around 1-2 tetanus cases per year.

Adults need booster shots

Tetanus vaccines are included in the national vaccination program. Children and young people are given the vaccination at child health clinics and at school. Adults’ tetanus vaccine coverage should be boosted at the ages of 25, 45 and 65. After this, the booster shots should be repeated every ten years.

‘If an accident happens, the risk of tetanus is always assessed. For example, if the wound is large or dirty and it has been more than 10 years since the person got their last tetanus vaccination, they will be given a booster vaccination’, says Anniina Virkku, Medical Specialist at THL.

Tetanus differs from many other diseases prevented by vaccines due to the fact that herd immunity cannot be attained with vaccinations. Tetanus is not transmitted from person to person, so the risk of being infected is not at all dependent on whether others have been vaccinated or not. The only way to be protected from tetanus is by getting the vaccine yourself. The vaccination is available free of charge from the health center.

Additional information

What is tetanus? (THL, in Finnish)

Tetanus vaccine

Remember to ensure your tetanus vaccine is valid (pdf 131 kB) THL, in Finnish

Anniina Virkku
Medical Specialist
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
tel. +358 29 524 8231
[email protected]

Infektiotaudit ja rokotukset Main site rokotukset - thlfi-en