Contagious bacteria spread by droplets; causes severe breathing difficulties.

Effects of the disease

About one in 15 patients dies. The bacterium releases a toxin, which can produce nerve paralysis and heart failure.

How to immunise and when

Immunisation with a DTPa-containing (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough) vaccine is the best way to prevent diphtheria. DTPa-containing vaccine is given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age (but can be given from 6 weeks) with a booster dose at four years of age, that can be given from 3 years 6 months of age.

Side effects of immunisation

About one in 10 has local inflammation at the site of injection or fever. Serious adverse events are very rare.

If you have any concerns about side effects of vaccines, talk to your doctor or nurse.

Page last updated: 10 Aug 2017