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Diphtheria Vaccination

Pronounced (dif-THEER-ee-a)
Diphtheria vaccination

At a Glance

Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death. There are several combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria: DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td.

What You Should Know

About the Disease

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Vaccine Information

Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Vaccines

There are four combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis: DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td. Two of these (DTaP and DT) are given to children younger than 7 years of age, and two (Tdap and Td) are given to older children and adults.

Children should get 5 doses of DTaP, one dose at each of the following ages: 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months and 4-6 years. DT does not contain pertussis, and is used as a substitute for DTaP for children who cannot tolerate pertussis vaccine.

Td is a tetanus-diphtheria vaccine given to adolescents and adults as a booster shot every 10 years, or after an exposure to tetanus under some circumstances. Tdap is similar to Td but also containing protection against pertussis. Adolescents 11-18 years of age (preferably at age 11-12 years) and adults 19 and older should receive a single dose of Tdap. Women should receive Tdap during each of their pregnancies (preferably in the third trimester between the 27th and 36th week). Tdap should also be given to 7-10 year olds who are not fully immunized against pertussis. Tdap can be given no matter when Td was last received.

(Upper-case letters in these abbreviations denote full-strength doses of diphtheria (D) and tetanus (T) toxoids and pertussis (P) vaccine. Lower-case “d” and “p” denote reduced doses of diphtheria and pertussis used in the adolescent/adult-formulations. The “a” in DTaP and Tdap stands for “acellular,” meaning that the pertussis component contains only a part of the pertussis organism.)

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Beliefs & Concerns

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Vaccine Safety

As with all vaccines, there can be minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue or a vague feeling of discomfort.

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Who Should Not be Vaccinated?

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For Health Professionals

Clinical Information on Diphtheria

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Vaccine Recommendations on Diphtheria

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References and Resources

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Provider Education

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Materials for Patients

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