MMR vaccination take up among five year olds is now the lowest it has been for 12 years, NHS data has revealed.
Official figures show falling vaccination rates for a host of jabs, with decreased uptake for 12 of 14 routine childhood immunisations.
The annual figures for 2022/23 show just one in 10 children has had their first MMR jab by the age of two.
By the age of five, just 84.5 per cent of children have had both doses - the lowest figure since 2010/11.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends uptake of 95 per cent for all childhood immunisations, in order to provide herd immunity and prevent outbreaks.
But for the second year running, none of the vaccinations has reached this target.
Children face being forced to self-isolate
The figures come after a number of councils said unvaccinated children face being forced to self-isolate for 21 days owing to the rapid rise of measles.
Authorities in several parts of London and the Home Counties have issued warnings to parents after modelling suggested up to 160,000 cases of the disease could occur in the capital alone.
Uptake of children’s vaccines has fallen since the pandemic amid school closures, the diversion of vaccinators to administer Covid jabs and increased “anti-vaxx” sentiment.
In the UK, babies are offered immunisation against meningitis B and rotavirus at eight weeks old, and are also given the “6-in-1” jab, which helps fight polio, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenzae type b – a bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections.
The doses are topped up at 12 weeks and 16 weeks.One-year-olds should receive the first dose of the MMR jab, along with the Hib/MenC vaccine, which protects against haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and meningitis C. They are also offered the second dose of the pneumococcal vaccine and further protection against meningitis B.The second dose of the MMR is offered at three years and four months.
Meanwhile, the demand for MMR jabs fell significantly in the decade following the discredited Andrew Wakefield study which in 1998 falsely linked the jabs with autism.
It then increased sharply, following concerted efforts to persuade parents of the benefits of vaccination, only to fall again in recent years, with the programme set back during the pandemic.
Coverage of the five in one jab against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and hib disease saw the largest year-on-year decrease, falling to 93.2 per cent, the lowest level since 2008/9.
Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, said the figures were concerning adding that the vaccination rates should be improved.
“It is particularly worrying that today’s statistics show that only 84.5 per cent of children receive the second MMR vaccine dose by age 5 – well below the 95 per cent level recommended by the WHO,” he said.
“Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases and cases are currently on the rise in England. We must ensure that vaccination rates improve to stop the spread of measles and give our communities the best possible protection available against this serious illness.”
He urged ministers to publish a long-awaited vaccine strategy, in order to boost uptake.
The statistics come from the latest NHS Digital report for England, co-authored with the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA).
Steve Russell, NHS director of vaccinations and screening, said: “The NHS continues to encourage and support parents and carers to ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations to protect them against becoming seriously unwell from infectious diseases.
“While most children are up to date with their vaccinations, there is more to do, and the NHS is running an MMR catch-up campaign to support more families in coming forward, with targeted outreach work for those identified as at high risk and communities with the lowest uptake.
“Diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella can make children seriously ill, but they are preventable, and millions of vaccination doses are given every year to offer the best protection – so please check your child is up to date with their vaccines and contact your GP surgery to catch up with any missed doses as soon as possible.”