More children having MMR vaccine

The number of youngsters having the MMR vaccine is on the rise although it still falls short of a World Health Organisation (WHO) target, figures showed today.

Across England, the percentage of children who had at least one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab by their second birthday was 88.2% in 2009/10.

This is up from 84.9% in 2008/09 and a low of 79.9% in 2003/04.

The MMR vaccination programme suffered a heavy blow when Dr Andrew Wakefield suggested a link between the jab, bowel disease and autism in the late 1990s.

Children are invited to have at least one dose of MMR by their second birthday, with the second dose completed by the age of five.

Today's report, from the NHS Information Centre, found the number having the MMR jab in England is still lower than in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Wales 92.2% are vaccinated and the figure is 93.7% in Scotland and 92.2% in Northern Ireland.

The WHO has a target of more than 95% of children having the jab - the figure needed for protection in the community.

In England, the highest proportion vaccinated with MMR by the age of two was in the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA)region at 91.4%.

The lowest was in the London region at 81.9%.

The study suggests the rise in vaccination may be down to several factors, including improved data quality and collection.

There have also been public health efforts to increase coverage.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "Following the low in MMR vaccinations among children in England six years ago, the percentage of children now receiving this vaccine is continuing to climb, although it is still short of the World Health Organisation's target of more than 95%.

"While the England figures are rising, a greater percentage of children in other UK countries are immunised against MMR and also for other diseases like meningitis C, polio, diphtheria and tetanus."

Today's report also showed a rise in the number of children in England immunised against Meningitis C.

Those having the combination jab against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis and haemophilus influenzae type B also rose above the 95% WHO target for the first time since 2006/07.