Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent diphtheria. 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). Healthcare professionals give DTaP and DT to children younger than seven years old, while older children, teens, and adults get Tdap and Td.
Babies and Children
The current childhood immunization schedule pdf icon[2 pages] for diphtheria includes five doses of DTaP for children younger than seven years old.
Preteens and Teens
The adolescent immunization schedule pdf icon[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.
For added protection against whooping cough, all adults who have never received one should get a shot of Tdap. This can be given at any time, regardless of when they last got Td. This should be followed by either a Td or Tdap shot every 10 years according to the adult immunization schedulepdf icon.
Learn more about diphtheria vaccines.