- Diphtheria has all but disappeared in Ireland with the last death in 1967.
- Diphtheria is a problem in countries where there is a lack of clean water and sanitation.
- It appears that low iron could make an individual more susceptible to invasive diphtheria in the rare cases that they contract the disease.
Health Freedom Ireland (HFI) encourages you to become fully informed about vaccines and the associated illnesses so that you can give informed consent if you choose to vaccinate yourself or your child(ren). This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. HFI is simply bringing this information to you – we neither recommend nor advise against vaccination.
Does the HSE recommend a vaccine for diphtheria?
Each of the vaccines outlined below is covered in detail in the linked Health Freedom Ireland documents (including risks, benefits, ingredients and studies). Despite the negligible risk of contracting diphtheria in Ireland, there is a recommendation to get 4 doses of diphtheria before age 5.
- Boostrix vaccine – pregnant mothers are recommended to take the whooping cough vaccine. However, because there is no singular vaccine for whooping cough, Boostrix (Tdap), which includes diphtheria and tetanus, is used.
- Infanrix Hexa (6-in-1) vaccine is recommended at 2, 4 & 6 months of age.
- Tetravac vaccine is recommended for junior infants.
As of 23rd September, 2023, there were 67,851 adverse events (including 217 SIDS deaths) reported on the World Health Organisation VigiAccess database for 6-in-1 vaccines including Infanrix Hexa, 236,010 (including 1,180 SIDS deaths) for 3-in-1 vaccines including Boostrix and 75,686 for 4-in-1 vaccines including Tetravac.
Do the vaccines guarantee protection from diphtheria?
No – you may still get diphtheria even after vaccination.
What is diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a very rare, contagious, bacterial disease of the upper respiratory system. It is mainly spread by the coughing and sneezing of infected persons. According to the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), the organism may still circulate in Ireland, particularly in situations of poverty, overcrowding and poor hygiene.
Most people had immunity without having symptoms pre vaccines according to the NIAC:
“Prior to the introduction of vaccination, most persons developed immunity as measured by the Schick test without experiencing clinical disease. There is now little likelihood of acquiring natural immunity from sub-clinical infection.”
The first symptoms appear two to five days after infection. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC):
“The majority of people with diphtheria will have a respiratory tract infection, with a sore throat and low grade fever in the first few days of the illness. Mild cases of the illness will not develop further symptoms.“
If the disease progresses, the lymph nodes of the neck may be swollen and a thick membrane can form on the surface of the tonsils and throat and may extend into the windpipe and lungs. The bacteria may also produce an ‘exotoxin’ which can affect the heart, kidneys and nerves. Most deaths from diphtheria are due to obstruction of the airway by the membrane and the effects of the toxin on the heart or nervous system.
Not all strains of the bacteria produce toxin, only those infected with a certain bacteriophage (a virus that infects bacteria) in the presence of low iron concentrations. This factor is used in the production of the toxin to make the vaccine. According to Todar’s Online Textbook of Bacteriology on diphtheria, it is reasonable to suppose that this is the case in the human body as well – that the bacteria will not produce the toxin at significant levels unless the iron supply in the tissues of the respiratory tract are depleted. From this, it would appear that poor diet or other factors affecting iron absorption could predispose an individual to invasive disease by an organism that might otherwise be carried harmlessly in their throat. This study on delayed cord clamping at birth points to the reduced iron deficiency at 3 – 8 months if the cord is not cut immediately. From the above this would be protective for babies against diphtheria.
What is the risk of my child getting diphtheria in Ireland?
There is currently an extremely rare chance of 1 in 2.5 million (0.00004%) of getting diphtheria in Ireland. Diphtheria was one of the most feared diseases in grandma’s day but has all but disappeared now with clean water and sanitation. According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) there have been two cases since 1967.
What is the risk of dying from diphtheria in Ireland?
The last death from diphtheria in Ireland was in 1967. The risk of dying from diphtheria in Ireland in the decade before the vaccine was introduced was extremely rare at less than 1 in 11,111 (0.009%).
|average population 1922 – 1931 = 2,999,600 |
average annual risk of dying from diphtheria during this period < 1 in 11,111 (0.009%)
Diphtheria disease Vs vaccine risk summary
Read the Health Freedom Ireland article on the Infanrix Hexa (6-in-1) vaccine which includes the diphtheria vaccine for further information including risk and ingredients analysis, studies in support of and studies highlighting concerns.
|RISK FROM DIPHTHERIA DISEASE|
|Current risk of getting diphtheria in Ireland||Negligible (2 cases since 1967)|
|Risk of dying from diphtheria in Ireland in the decade before a vaccine was introduced in the 1930s||Extremely rare: <1 in 11,111 (0.009%)|
|Current risk of dying from diphtheria||Negligible (last death 1967)|
|RISK FROM DIPHTHERIA VACCINES|
see section 4 of patient information leaflet for full list of side effects
**Severe allergic reactions can occur to any vaccine but they are very rare and are usually seen in less than 1 in 10,000 people who are vaccinated
(1 dose recommended during pregnancy)
|Risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome||Very rare: up to 1 in 10,000 doses (0.01%)|
|Risk of fever, pain, flu like symptoms, swollen glands, upper respiratory tract infection, fainting||Uncommon: up to 1 in 100 doses (1%)|
|Risk of difficulty breathing (angioedema), collapse, seizures, unusual weakness (asthenia)||Frequency unknown – during routine use (after launched on market)|
|Infanrix Hexa (6-in-1) vaccine|
(3 doses recommended at 2, 4 & 6 months)
|Risk of bronchitis, lymphadenopathy, bleeding or bruising more easily (thrombocytopenia)||Rare: up to 1 in 1,000 doses (0.1%)|
|Risk of Neuropathy, Guillain-Barré syndrome, encephalopathy, encephalitis, meningitis (causal relationship to the vaccine has not been established)||In extremely rare cases (frequency not defined)|
(1 dose recommended at 4 years)
|Risk of convulsions, lymphadenopathy, Guillain-Barré syndrome, shock like state, unresponsive (hypotonic hyporesponsive episodes)||Frequency unknown – cannot be estimated from available data|
Join the parents support group to continue the discussion and learn from the experience of others
Health Freedom Ireland:
Health Freedom Ireland Infanrix Hexa (6-in-1) vaccine