Diphtheria

Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that is spread through coughs and sneezes. It affects the nose, throat and sometimes the skin, and it can be fatal.

High-risk areas

High-risk areas for diptheria include:

  • parts of South America
  • parts of Southeast Asia
  • sub-Saharan Africa

In the UK, children are vaccinated against diphtheria as part of the childhood vaccination programme. This means that many people in the UK will already be fully vaccinated against diphtheria.

The vaccine is recommended for anyone travelling to a high-risk area and who:

  • has not been vaccinated
  • has not been fully vaccinated (in the UK you should receive five doses of the diphtheria vaccine)
  • had their last dose of the diphtheria vaccine 10 or more years ago

The vaccine

Children under 10 years of age will receive their diphtheria vaccine as part of their childhood vaccinations.

Children aged 10 or over and adults who have never been vaccinated will need to have three doses of the vaccine, one month apart. You can have a booster dose 5–10 years after this, followed by a second booster dose after another 10 years. You will then be protected for life.

Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated or has not had a booster dose in the last 10 years will need to have a booster dose of the diphtheria vaccine.

The diphtheria vaccine is usually combined with other vaccines, such as tetanus and polio. The diphtheria vaccine cannot be given to infants under two months of age.