The number of children in England receiving the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine has gone up, but child immunisation levels in England are still lower than the rest of the UK, new data shows.

In 2009-10, 88.2% of children in England had received the MMR vaccine by their second birthday, compared to 84.9% in 2008-09, and the percentage is continuing to rise following a low of 79.9% in 2003-04, according to new NHS immunisation statistics.

However, the current figure is still lower than the World Health Organisation (WHO) target of more than 95%, and it compares to levels of 92.2% in Wales, 93.7% in Scotland and 92.2% in Northern Ireland, the statistics show.

Regionally in England, the highest percentage of children vaccinated for MMR at two years was in South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), at 91.4%, while the lowest percentage was in London SHA at 81.9%, says the report, which comments that the increase in vaccination coverage in the period under review may be due to a number of factors, including improvements in data quality and reporting, as well as efforts to increase vaccination coverage.

The report, which summarises immunisation coverage as reported by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), also shows that in England in 2009-10:

• 92.7% of children had completed a primary immunisation course against meningitis C by their first birthday, an increase from 91.2% in 2008-09. However, this compares to 95.9% in Wales, 97.0% in Scotland and 97.5% in Northern Ireland;

            •   • 95.3% of children in England reaching their second birthday had completed primary immunisation courses against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis and haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP/IPV/Hib). This exceeds the WHO 95% target for the first time since the first year of the combined vaccine was reported in 2006-07 but is still lower than in the rest of the UK, where rates were 97.5% in Wales, 98.4% in Scotland and 98.5% in Northern Ireland; and

            •  • 92.9% of children aged 12 months had completed a primary course of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), compared to 91.3% in 2008-09. This compares to 96.0% in Wales, 97.2% in Scotland and 97.5* in Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the findings, NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said that the percentage of children in England now receiving the MMR vaccine is continuing to climb, following the low in vaccinations six years ago, but it is still short of the WHO target of more than 95%.

“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,” he added.