More children having MMR jab in England, but target missed

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

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 per cent in 2009-10.

This is up from 84.9 per cent in 2008-09 and a low of 79.9 per cent in 2003-04.

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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 to be completed by the age of five.

Yesterday'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 per cent are vaccinated and the figure is 93.7 per cent in Scotland and 92.2 per cent in Northern Ireland. The WHO has a target of more than 95 per cent of children having the jab – the figure needed for protection in the community.

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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 per cent.

The lowest was in the London region at 81.9 per cent.

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 per cent.

"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."