The latest NHS immunisation statistics for 1 April 2013 - 31 March 2014, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), show that nearly 93 per cent of children had received the first dose of the vaccine before their second birthday.
This is the highest level since the vaccine was introduced in 1988, and the sixth consecutive year that a rise in MMR coverage has been reported.
In 2012-2013, 92 per cent of children received the MMR jab ahead of turning two.
The number of children who had both doses of the vaccine by their fifth birthday also rose, from 87.7 per cent a year earlier to 88.3 per cent in 2013-14.
The MMR is offered to children between 12-13 months. They usually receive the second dose before they start school, normally when they are between three and five years of age.
Take-up of the vaccine varied by region with levels highest in the North East and lowest in London and the South East.
Public Health England says a number of different factors may have contributed to increased uptake of the vaccine in recent years, including local initiatives and the national Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) catch-up campaign to increase vaccination coverage in 2008-09.
Despite recent increases in take-up of the vaccine, the number of children immunised against MMR continues to fall short of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) target of 95 per cent.
Kingsley Manning, chair of the HSCIC, said, ‘This report shows clear variation across the country in vaccination coverage amongst children. It is notable to see that the North East of England has the highest levels of immunisation across the majority of routine childhood vaccinations and London has the lowest levels for all.
‘Healthcare professionals should take note of the statistics in this report and make use of them as part of their planning, to encourage parents to immunise their children.’
Dr Helen Bedford, immunisation expert at the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, said, ‘Immunisation rates in England are generally very good.
‘While MMR uptake is at its highest ever for two-years-olds in England overall, there are clear regional differences particularly within inner cities and especially in London. This could be for a number of reasons, including high population mobility, social disadvantage and language barriers leading to difficulty accessing health services and different attitudes towards vaccinations in some groups.
‘We also have to consider the quality of vaccine coverage data, which varies from region to region. For example we know there are some areas, particularly in London, that are not reporting vaccination uptake at all. So some of the variation in uptake reflects difficulties in gathering or reporting data rather than actual uptake.'
She added, 'Nevertheless this important data provide healthcare professionals with information on uptake in their areas and in low uptake areas is an incentive to ensure they are providing accessible services and communicating the importance of vaccinations to their populations.’