Vaccine Information You Need
Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Diphtheria (DTaP, Tdap, Td)

Diphtheria is a serious disease caused by bacteria. The actual disease is caused when the bacteria release a toxin, or poison, into a person's body.
Diphtheria bacteria live in the mouth, throat, and nose of an infected person and can be passed to others by coughing or sneezing. Occasionally, transmission occurs from skin sores or through articles soiled with oozing from sores of infected people.
Diphtheria can lead to severe breathing problems, heart problems, and paralysis. Death occurs in 5%–10% of people infected with diphtheria.
Diphtheria was once a greatly feared illness in the United States. In the 1920s, there were between 100,000 and 200,000 cases of diphtheria each year with 13,000–15,000 deaths. Because of widespread immunization and better living conditions, diphtheria is now rare in the United States.
Vaccination is the most effective step you can take to be protected from this serious disease.
Diphtheria Vaccine Schedule
All children should get 5 doses of DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccine, beginning at 2 months of age. If your child misses a dose or gets behind schedule, make sure they get the next dose as soon as possible. Older children, teens, and adults should receive one dose of Tdap vaccine and after that, a Td booster dose every 10 years.
Trusted Websites
Find fact sheets for parents and children, resources, multimedia, and more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Information about Diphtheria
Information about Diphtheria
Vaccines.gov provides resources from federal agencies for the general public and their communities about vaccines across the lifespan
A Look at Each Vaccine: Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines
A Look at Each Vaccine: Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis
Questions and answers about the disease and vaccines from the Vaccine Education Center
View all diseases and vaccines
Video Library
Video: Is Your Child Under Vaccinated?
Is Your Child Under Vaccinated?: Undervaccinated kids, meaning they are missing some vaccinations, are at a much higher risk for getting infection and whooping cough. Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson recommends that your children are up to date with their vaccinations to keep them healthy.
>> view all diphtheria videos
Personal Testimonies
Stories of suffering and loss from diphtheria
A Death from Diphtheria
>> view all personal testimonies
More Diphtheria Information
Diphtheria: Make sure your child is protected
Diphtheria: Make sure your child is protected (IAC)
Vaccine summary for parents
>> Spanish-language
Diphtheria Questions & Answers
Diphtheria Q&As (IAC)
Diphtheria disease and vaccine information
Diphtheria: Overview for Parents
Overview for Parents (CDC)
Frequently asked questions
>> Spanish-language
Diphtheria Fact Sheet
Diphtheria Fact Sheet (CDC)
More in-depth information, includes a real-life story
Diphtheria Photos
Some of the images are quite graphic
>> view all diphtheria photos
This page was updated on  May 17, 2018.
This page was reviewed on May 11, 2018.
Immunization Action Coalition  •  2550 University Avenue West  •  Suite 415 North  •  Saint Paul, Minnesota  •  55114
tel 651-647-9009  •  fax 651-647-9131
The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), a non-profit organization, works to increase immunization rates and prevent disease by creating and distributing educational materials for health professionals and the public that enhance delivery of safe and effective immunization services. IAC also facilitates communication about the safety, efficacy, and use of vaccines within the broad immunization community of patients, parents, healthcare organizations, and government health agencies.