Diphtheria: Prevention

How can diphtheria be prevented?

Diphtheria is prevented with immunization.

The diphtheria vaccine is given by needle and is very safe. Like all vaccines authorized for use in Canada, it went through several stages of testing before being authorized for use.

The diphtheria vaccine is usually given as part of a combined vaccine with other diseases. For more information on the vaccines used in Canada please refer to the Canadian Immunization Guide.

Canadian guidelines recommend that all children get 4 doses of the combined vaccine. These doses are usually given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 18 months of age. Your child will get a booster vaccine at 4 to 6 years of age. An additional booster dose, combined with tetanus and pertussis vaccine, is recommended for adolescents between 14 to 16 years of age. The diphtheria vaccine should be given every 10 years after that for lasting protection.

Diphtheria vaccines are safe, effective and free.

Side effects of this vaccine are usually very mild. Your child’s arm or thigh might be a bit red or sore where the needle went in. Your child may also:

  • have a slight fever
  • be fussy
  • be sleepier than usual
  • have less appetite than usual

These side effects usually happen 12 to 24 hours after the immunization and go away within a few days.

What about travel?

If you are planning to travel abroad,

  • visit your health care provider at least 6 weeks before you leave
  • make sure your and your children’s immunizations are up to date
  • read Public Health Agency of Canada’s travel health notices.

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