What is diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a life-threatening bacterial infection of the throat and nose. At the beginning, diphtheria resembles strep throat. However, depending on its course, other organs such as the heart or nervous system  can be affected. Despite treatment, about 10% of infections are fatal. In recent decades, the spread of diphtheria has been reduced thanks to vaccination. The vaccine offers a very high protection against severe disease (95%). It enables the immune system to react quickly in case of contact with the pathogen and is therefore recommended to everyone in Switzerland.


When and how often should I be vaccinated against diphtheria?

The vaccination is given during childhood with an additional dose at the age of 25. After that, the vaccination should be refreshed every 20 years, and every 10 years from the age of 65. If the vaccination was not given during childhood, it should be given as soon as possible, but fewer doses are needed in adulthood.

In Switzerland, the booster vaccination is only available in various combinations with tetanus, pertussis and poliomyelitis. Vaccines applied in childhood may cover additional pathogens with the same injection.

26-75 CHF per dose

plus consultation and injection fee

What else should I know about diphtheria?

  • The disease is usually transmitted by droplets (e.g. coughing, sneezing, talking), rarely through the skin contact.

  • The bacteria are found worldwide but do not cause disease in every individual.

  • The vaccine is only effective against the diphtheria toxin responsible for severe disease and not against the bacterium itself. This is one reason why one can become infected despite being vaccinated. However, vaccination largely prevents severe disease because the toxin is inactivated at an early stage.

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