Prior to the completion of this and other studies, low effectiveness of diphtheria toxoid-containing vaccine was suspected to be a major contributing factor to the diphtheria epidemic that began in the Russian Federation in 1990. A vaccine effectiveness study was done in Moscow by enrolling physician-diagnosed cases and 10 control subjects per case. Controls were matched to cases by age (+/-3 months) and clinic registration. Vaccination history was abstracted from a standardized form for case-patients and from clinic vaccination records for control subjects. Two hundred seventeen case-patients and 2169 matched controls were included in the study. Most controls (92%) had received three or more doses of a diphtheria toxoid vaccine, compared with 72% of case-patients. The vaccine effectiveness for three or more doses was 97% (95% confidence interval: 94.3-98.4). Low vaccine effectiveness was not a contributing factor to the diphtheria epidemic in the Russian Federation. To control and prevent diphtheria epidemics, it is necessary to achieve and maintain high vaccination coverage with three or more doses of diphtheria toxoid among adults and children.