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

High risk areas: sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of South East Asia and South America.

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

The vaccine

Children under 10 years of age should receive their diphtheria vaccine as part of the normal childhood immunisation programme.

Children aged 10 years of age, 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 (received five doses of the vaccine), 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 who are under two months of age.