Why get immunised against diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a serious infection of the airways. It can affect people of any age.

Vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect you from diphtheria.

By getting vaccinated you can also help protect other people, especially people who are too sick or too young to be vaccinated. The more people who are vaccinated in your community, the less likely the disease will spread.

Who should get immunised against diphtheria?

Anyone who wants to protect themselves against diphtheria can talk to their doctor about getting immunised.

Diphtheria immunisation is recommended for:

  • children aged two months, four months, six months, 18 months, four years, and between 10 and 15 years (at school), for free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP)
  • pregnant women in the third trimester of every pregnancy, as part of the combination vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis)
  • 50-year-olds who have not had a diphtheria vaccine in the past 10 years
  • people aged 65 or over, who haven’t had a diphtheria vaccine in the past 10 years, as part of the combination vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis)
  • people who are travelling overseas, who haven’t had a diphtheria vaccine in the past 10 years
  • laboratory workers who might have contact with the bacteria that causes diphtheria.

All young people under 20 years old, refugees and other humanitarian entrants of any age, can get diphtheria vaccines for free under the NIP. This is if they did not receive the vaccines in childhood. This is called catch-up vaccination.

Where can you get a diphtheria immunisation?

Diphtheria immunisations are available in each Australian state and territory.

See Where can I get immunised? for information.

How do you get immunised against diphtheria?

You can only get diphtheria vaccines as a combination vaccine. They are all given as a needle.

Diphtheria vaccines for children under 10 years old include:

Diphtheria vaccines for adults, teenagers and children over 10 years old include:

Your doctor will tell you which vaccine they will use for your diphtheria immunisation.

Do I need to pay for diphtheria immunisation?

Vaccines covered by the NIP are free for people who are eligible. See the NIP Schedule to find out which vaccines you or your family are eligible to receive.

Eligible people get the vaccine for free, but your health care provider (for example, your doctor) may charge a consultation fee for the visit. You can check this when you make your appointment.

Pregnant women can get a free whooping cough vaccine through state and territory programs. This vaccine includes protection against diphtheria. Contact your state or territory health department for details.

If you are not eligible for free vaccine, you may need to pay for it. The cost depends on the type of vaccine, the formula and where you buy it from. Your immunisation provider can give you more information.

What are the possible side effects of diphtheria immunisation?

All medicines and vaccines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they’re not.

For most people, the chance of having a serious side effect from a vaccine is much lower than the chance of serious harm if you caught the disease.

Talk to your doctor about possible side effects of diphtheria vaccines, or if you or your child have possible side effects that concern you.

Common side effects of diphtheria vaccines include:

  • pain, redness, swelling or hardness where the needle went in.

The Consumer Medicine Information links in How do you get immunised against diphtheria? list the side effects of each vaccine.

More information


If you need advice or more information about immunisation, go to our Immunisation contacts page.

Last updated: 
11 December 2017