VACCINATIONS against measles, mumps and rubella increased in Gwent during the first quarter of 2014 as awareness remained high in the aftermath of last year’s Swansea outbreak.

In all five council areas in Gwent during January-March, the first dose MMR vaccination rate - for children reaching two years of age during that period - was above the 95 per cent target, with an overall quarterly rate of 97.1 per cent.

That is 0.9 percentage points higher than for the previous quarter, and 1.4 percentage points higher than for the first quarter of 2013.

The Wales-wide rate for first dose MMR for the same period was 96.7 per cent.

Encouragingly, the rate for second dose MMR, for children reaching five years of age during the relevant quarter, also rose in Gwent during January-March this year, to 92.8 per cent, still below the target, though the all-Wales rate dropped.

Two areas topped the 95 per cent target - Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen - with Caerphilly and Monmouthshire above 93 per cent coverage, and Newport back at 89.5 per cent.

Regular achievement of the 95 per cent target is considered vital for the establishment of herd immunity, the point at which the opportunity of an outbreak is minimised.

While good progress continues to be made in ensuring teenagers who missed having MMR jabs as young children receive the vaccine, there remains work to be done to reach the 95 per cent target.

In Gwent during January-March, first dose MMR uptake among 16-year-olds was just short of the target at 94.9 per cent, a slight increase on the previous quarter and up from 88.3 per cent during January-March 2013.

Uptake of second dose MMR among 16-year-olds in Gwent reached 89.2 per cent during January-March this year, compared to just 78.5 per cent in the same quarter last year, but the rate remains well short of the target.

Public Health Wales continues to stress the importance of two doses of MMR in order to have maximum protection against measles, mumps and rubella.