Diphtheria

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Did you know?

Diphtheria was once one of the most common causes of death in Canadian children under the age of 5.

What is the diphtheria vaccine?

The diphtheria vaccine protects against diphtheria, a serious infection caused by diphtheria bacteria. 

The diphtheria vaccine is combined with other vaccines so that you or your child can get protection against several diseases with fewer shots.

Who should get the diphtheria vaccine? 

What is a booster dose?

Immunity (protection) from some vaccines weakens with time. A "booster" dose is an added dose of vaccine given to strengthen or "boost" the immune system to provide better protection against disease. 

People of all ages need diphtheria vaccines.  There are many different combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria in infants, young children, school-age children, and adults. 

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is given to infants as a series of 3 doses at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. 

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-Hib) Vaccine 

  • This vaccine is given to infants as a booster dose at 18 months of age after completing a three-dose primary series of DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib.

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio (Tdap-IPV) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is given as one dose to children 4-6 years of age. This is a booster dose for children who were immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio at a younger age. 

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is offered to all students in Grade 9. This is a booster dose for children immunized against these diseases at a younger age.  Children who received a booster dose of Tdap vaccine on or after their 10th birthday do not need a dose in grade 9.
  • The Tdap vaccine can also be given to children 7 years of age and older who have not been fully immunized, and to adults or immigrants who have not been immunized or whose immunization history is unknown.
  • People born in 1989 or later who missed their adolescent dose of Tdap are eligible to receive one dose of this vaccine for free.
  • A booster dose of the Tdap vaccine is recommended for adults who were immunized in childhood but is not provided for free in B.C.

Tetanus and Diphtheria (Td) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is given as a booster dose to adults who were immunized against tetanus and diphtheria when they were younger. Adults should get a booster dose of the Td vaccine every 10 years.
  • Adults who have not been immunized or do not have a record of prior immunization should also get the vaccine.
  • This vaccine may also be given to people with serious cuts or deep wounds if their last tetanus vaccine was given more than 5 years ago.

What are the benefits of the diphtheria vaccine?

Vaccination is the best way to protect against diphtheria, a serious disease that sometimes causes death. When you or your child get vaccinated, you help protect others too. 

What are the side effects?

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than it is to get diphtheria. 

Many people have no side effects from these vaccines. For those that do, side effects are usually mild and last 1 to 2 days (see a list of common side effects for each vaccine below). Serious side effects are extremely rare.

It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is a very rare chance, between one in 100,000 and one in a million, of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your immunizing health care provider.

DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib Vaccine

Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Some children may have a fever or experience crankiness, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, persistent crying, or a loss of appetite. These reactions are mild and usually last 1 to 2 days.

DTaP-IPV-Hib Vaccine

Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Some children may have a fever, or experience crankiness, drowsiness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. These reactions are mild and generally last 1 to 2 days. Large areas of redness and swelling may be present but these generally do not interfere with normal activity.

Tdap-IPV Vaccine

Common side effects may include may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Fever, chills, headache, and tiredness may also occur. These reactions are mild and generally last 1 to 2 days. Large areas of redness and swelling may be present but these generally do not interfere with normal activity.

Tdap Vaccine

Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given. Headache, tiredness, muscle or joint soreness, and mild fever may also occur.

Td Vaccine

Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Fever, headache, and muscle soreness may also occur.

Where can I learn more?

  • Click on the vaccine name above to read the HealthLink BC File.
  • Talk to your immunizing health care provider. 

About diphtheria 

  • Diphtheria is a serious infection of the nose and throat caused by diphtheria bacteria.
  • Diphtheria bacteria are spread through the air by people sneezing or coughing or by direct skin-to-skin contact.
  • The disease can result in very severe breathing problems. It can also cause heart failure and paralysis.
  • About 1 in 10 people who get diphtheria may die.
  • Diphtheria is now rare in Canada because of routine childhood vaccination programs. However, it still occurs in other parts of the world.
Date last updated: 
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Apr 06, 2020