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The best way to prevent diphtheria is to get vaccinated. In the U.S., there are four combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria: DTaP, Tdap, DT and Td. Each of these vaccines prevents diphtheria and tetanus; DTaP and Tdap vaccines also prevent pertussis (whooping cough). DTaP and DT vaccines are given to children younger than seven years of age, and Tdap and Td vaccines are given to older children, teens and adults.

Infants and Children

The current childhood immunization schedule [2 pages] for diphtheria includes five doses of diphtheria vaccines (DTaP) for children younger than six years of age.

Preteens and Teens

The adolescent immunization schedule [2 pages] recommends that preteens get a booster dose of a diphtheria vaccine (Tdap) at 11 or 12 years of age. Teens who did not get Tdap at 11 or 12 years of age should get a dose at their next medical visit.


Adults should receive a dose of Td every 10 years according to the adult immunization schedule [2 pages]. For added protection against pertussis (whooping cough), any adult who never received a dose of Tdap vaccine should get one as soon as possible The dose of Tdap is in place of one of the Td shots.

Learn more about diphtheria vaccines.

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