UPTAKE of first dose MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine among two-year-olds in Gwent and the rest of Wales remains above the minimum 95 per cent target, new figures show.

But public health experts are warning that, with second dose uptake, at five years old, still below 95 per cent, the potential remains for disease outbreaks.

MMR uptake generally increased during last year in the wake of the measles outbreak in the Swansea area, the biggest in the UK for more than a decade, in which more than 1,200 cases were recorded.

Around 130 cases were recorded in Gwent last year as the virus spread, with a major MMR vaccination programme being carried out in one-off clinics and at schools and college campuses to try to stop it.

The latest immunisation figures, for October-December 2013, reveal a first dose MMR uptake across Wales of 96.6 per cent, which is slightly down on the previous quarter, but is still above the target. In Gwent, first dose uptake was 96.2 per cent.

For second dose MMR, the Wales rate was 92.6 per cent with Gwent at 92 per cent.

The vaccination programme last spring at schools and colleges helped boost the uptake among older children who had missed both or one pre-school dose of MMR.

But particularly among 10 to 18-year-olds, significant numbers of children remain unprotected or partially protected.

Uptake of first dose MMR at 16 years old was given a major boost by last spring’s programme and that momentum has been largely maintained.

October to December uptake for MMR 1 at 16 for Gwent and Wales was 94.8 per cent, just short of target.

The problem has been persuading teenagers into a second dose, with uptake across Wales just 89.2 per cent, and slightly higher in Gwent (89.5 per cent).

Dr Richard Roberts, head of Public Health Wales’ vaccine preventable disease programme, said: “Excellent vaccine uptake in our younger children means we may not see outbreaks of this (Swansea) scale in 10 years’ time, but while older children are unprotected, there is every potential for further outbreaks in their age group.

“We would remind all parents of children of any age who are not yet fully vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella that they should speak to their GP surgery as soon as possible to arrange catch-up doses.”