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

Babies and Children

The current childhood immunization schedule [2 pages] for diphtheria includes five doses of DTaP for children younger than seven years old.

Preteens and Teens

The adolescent immunization schedule [2 pages] recommends that preteens get a booster dose of Tdap at 11 or 12 years old. Teens who did not get Tdap when they were 11 or 12 years old should get a dose the next time they see their doctor.


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

Learn more about diphtheria vaccines.

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