The proportion of babies vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella has increased in Southampton, but remains below the level needed for herd immunity.

Despite an increase in MMR vaccination rates across England, the British Society for Immunology warned that the national level was still below target and could mean diseases such as measles spreading to vulnerable, unvaccinated people.

Figures from NHS Digital show 91.7% of babies in Southampton received the first dose of the MMR vaccination by their second birthday in 2019-20 .

This was an increase on the 91.3% of two-year-olds who were vaccinated the year before, but means 258 babies were not inoculated this year.

Across England, the proportion of children having their first dose of the jab increased from 90.3% in 2018-19 to 90.6% in 2019-20 – though it is still well below the 95% needed for herd immunity.

This is the first time in six years that MMR coverage nationwide has increased, following a peak of 92.7% in 2013-14.

Vaccination rates fell and measles rates began to rise following a study in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield claiming the jabs were unsafe.

The findings were later discredited and the General Medical Council (GMC) struck him off, ruling he had been “dishonest, irresponsible and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain” of children.

The NHS figures show an increase in coverage in six of the nine English regions in 2019-20, with the South East having the third highest level of coverage, at 92.7%.

Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, welcomed the “small increase in uptake for most routine vaccinations” but said “none of them have reached the necessary uptake level of 95% at the correct timepoint.”

He added: “The slight rise in uptake of routine childhood vaccinations in England is a step in the right direction but we must still take urgent action to overcome the ongoing trend of missing the 95% target set out by the World Health Organisation.

“Low levels of vaccination coverage matter as it means diseases such as measles have the potential to spread within our communities, infecting unvaccinated people, including vulnerable individuals unable to have vaccinations such as young babies or people with cancer.”

In Southampton, 89.3% of children had received both doses of the MMR vaccine before the age of five in 2019-20 – compared to 86.8% across England.

The report suggested stay-at-home messaging may have contributed to a "large decline" in vaccine uptake.