Diphtheria vaccine

What is it for?

This vaccine prevents people from becoming sick from the toxin produced by the bacteria that cause diphtheria (Corynebacterium diphtheriae and Corynebacterium ulcerans). The toxin produced by these bacteria can affect the respiratory tract (lungs and windpipe), the nervous system and heart muscle cells. The infection is very contagious and can be life-threatening.

Diphtheria is quite rare in Australia. This is because the vaccine is given to children as part of the National Immunisation Program in order to wipe out diphtheria in Australia.

If you have not been vaccinated, you can get diphtheria by breathing in droplets containing the diphtheria bacteria that are coughed or sneezed by someone with the infection or by coming into close contact with their mouth, nose, throat or skin.

Who should be vaccinated?

The diphtheria vaccine is part of a combined vaccine given as a single injection. There are three vaccinations given at different ages as part of the National Immunisation Program schedule.

Children

Children aged 6 weeks to 6 months

A combined diphtheria vaccine is given free to all children aged 6 weeks to 2 months, 4 months and again at 6 months as part of the National Immunisation Program. The combined vaccine also protects your child against five other diseases including tetanus, polio, whooping cough (pertussis), hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Children aged 3.5 to 4 years

As part of the National Immunisation Program schedule, children in this age group are given a combined booster vaccination that protects against diphtheria and four other diseases: tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and polio.

Teenagers aged 10 to 17 years

Adolescents and teenagers aged 11 to 13 years are usually given a combined booster vaccination that protects against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis).

More information about diphtheria is available from the NSW Department of Health.

Adults

Your doctor may recommend that you have a tetanus-containing booster vaccination if you are 50 years or older and you have not had a tetanus booster vaccination in the previous 10 years, or before travelling. Ask your doctor for advice.

Pregnant women

Your doctor may recommend that you have the diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis) combination vaccine while you are pregnant, especially if:

  • you work with babies or children (e.g. in a childcare or hospital neonatal unit), OR
  • the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh the risk to you and your unborn baby of having the infection.

Read more information about what vaccines you can have if you are pregnant.

Women who are breastfeeding

There is no known risk to your baby if you are vaccinated with the diphtheria combination vaccine while you are breastfeeding.

Women who are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine except the yellow fever vaccine.

Side effects

Common side effects of the diptheria vaccine (that may affect 1 to 10 in every 100 people) include:

  • fever
  • redness, swelling and tenderness at injection site
  • a lump at the injection site that generally disappears after a few weeks and does not need treatment
  • feeling generally unwell (malaise)
  • tiredness or drowsiness.

Read more about vaccine side effects and safety.

Who can I ask about side effects?

If you’re concerned that you or your child may have had side effects related to a vaccine, seek medical advice. To report and discuss possible side effects, call the Adverse Medicines Events (AME) Line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm AEST).

References

Related information - diphtheria vaccine

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20 Jul 2016 Tripacel Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine. Find out about side effects, who can and who shouldn’t use Tripacel Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information. See our tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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09 Mar 2016 Infanrix Hexa (thiomersal free) Injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient diphtheria toxoid - hepatitis B vaccine - pertussis vaccine - poliomyelitis vaccine - tetanus toxoid / haemophilus influenzae vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Infanrix Hexa (thiomersal free) Injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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12 Dec 2014 Adacel Polio Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient pertussis vaccine - diphtheria toxoid - tetanus toxoid - poliomyelitis vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Adacel Polio Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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12 Dec 2014 Boostrix-IPV Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient diphtheria toxoid - tetanus toxoid - pertussis vaccine - poliomyelitis vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Boostrix-IPV Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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11 Dec 2014 Quadracel Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine. Find out about side effects, who can and who shouldn’t use Quadracel Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information. See our tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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06 Nov 2014 Boostrix (preservative free) Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient diphtheria toxoid - tetanus toxoid - pertussis vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Boostrix (preservative free) Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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04 Nov 2013 ADT Booster Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient diphtheria toxoid - tetanus toxoid. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use ADT Booster Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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04 Nov 2013 Infanrix IPV (preservative free) Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient diphtheria toxoid - pertussis vaccine - tetanus toxoid - poliomyelitis vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Infanrix IPV (preservative free) Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.