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. 

  • The Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib) Vaccine is given to infants as a series of 3 doses at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. 
  • The Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-Hib) 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.
  • The Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio (Tdap-IPV) 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. 
  • The Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) 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.
  • The Tetanus and Diphtheria (Td) 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?

The vaccine 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. 

Where can I learn more?

Click on the vaccine name above to access the HealthLink BC file for more information about the vaccine, including possible reactions and who should not get the vaccine.

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: 
Thursday, Apr 09, 2020
Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Apr 06, 2020