Diphtheria

By Belle Tan and Martha Vertti

Vaccine Name:

There are several vaccines administered to people in order to prevent Diphtheria. These vaccinations are:

  1. DTaP
  2. Tdap
  3. DT
  4. Td.


  • The most common vaccine, however, is DTaP.

Illness Prevented

The vaccinations DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td are administered to patients in order to provide immunity to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

Age Given/ Circumstances Given

The ACIP recommends that 5 doses of a combination of diphtheria and tetanus toxins, in addition to acellular pertussis (in other words, five doses of the DTaP vaccine), for infants and children. The DTaP vaccine has a recommended dosage schedule, which is listed below:


  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15-18 months
  • 4-6 years of age


Thankfully, this vaccination can be safely administered in combination with another vaccine, such as a flu shot.

Symptoms of Disease

General symptoms caused by diphtheria are a gradual onset of sore throat and a low-grade fever. If the disease becomes complicated, a person can experience airway obstruction, a coma, and in bad cases, even death. Diphtheria is an acute, highly contagious bacterial disease that causes inflammation of the mucous membranes, formation of a false membrane in the throat that hinders breathing and swallowing, and potential damage to the heart and nervous system due to a bacterial toxin in the blood. Diphtheria is also known to cause paralysis.


Does diphtheria cause death?

Yes, however this is relatively rare in developed countries because of immunization standards. Diphtheria only causes death if the illness becomes severely complicated.

Possible Side Effects of Vaccination:

Of course, side effects associated with DTaP are less severe than contracting Diphtheria itself. However, they are still present, nonetheless. Many children who receive this vaccine may experience these mild problems:


  • Fever (25% chance)
  • Redness/Swelling at administration site (25% chance)
  • Soreness/Tenderness at administration site (25% chance)
  • Fatigue/Poor Appetite (10% chance)
  • Vomiting (2% chance)


All of these side-effects are relatively normal and quickly go away. They arise 1-7 days after the shot was given to the patient. In EXTREMELY rare cases, the vaccine may cause seizures, a high fever of over 104º, comas, lowered-consciousness, and permanent brain damage. However, the Center for Disease control stresses that these extreme side effects are not proven to be caused solely as a result of the vaccine. The number of reported extreme side effects is very small.