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The disease

Did you know?

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

  • 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. 

The vaccine

The diphtheria vaccine is combined with other vaccines so that you or your child can get protection against several diseases with fewer shots.  There are several combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria in infants, children, adolescents and adults. 

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

  • This vaccine is given as a series of 3 doses to infants 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 a 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. The booster dose strengthens or boosts the immune system to give better protection against these diseases.

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.
  • 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 for one dose of this vaccine.
  • 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

  • Adults who were immunized against tetanus and diphtheria when they were younger 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.
Date last updated: 
Thursday, Nov 23, 2017
Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017