Public health experts are encouraging more parents to vaccinate their children due to a slight downward turn in vaccination rates across the county.

According to Cambridgeshire County Council, more than 1,000 youngsters who were eligible for the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab, were not vaccinated last year.

The county council is supporting a campaign launched by the World Health Organisation, which promotes the crucial role of vaccines in preventing the spread of contagious diseases, by making sure that parents and carers have the necessary information to make a decision.

It says vaccinations are thoroughly tested by health professionals and continually monitored to make sure they are safe and effective.

Local statistics show that the uptake of some childhood vaccinations across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are below the national target of 95 per cent.

This includes the pre-school vaccinations given when children are aged approximately three years and four months.

Cambridgeshire County Council's consultant in public health, Katie Johnson said: "Vaccinations prevent and protect not only the person vaccinated, but also those around them from life threatening diseases.

"We all want to make sure every child goes on to lead a healthy life. Diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough haven't gone away and can be passed on to those who are not protected by vaccines - if we stop vaccination, diseases will return."

Last October was the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the MMR vaccination and despite many public health campaigns, there are still parents who continue to accept "the myths spread by anti-vaccine campaigners" says Professor Dame Sally Davies, the government's chief medical officer.

She has said that despite the fact the MMR vaccine has been given to millions of children worldwide, uptake is currently is "not good enough".

In England, 87 per cent of children receive two doses but the target is 95 per cent and the chief medical officer has urged parents to make sure their children are vaccinated and ignore "social media fake news".

She said: "Over these last 30 years, we have vaccinated millions of children. It is a safe vaccination - we know that - and we've saved millions of lives across the world.

"People spread these myths and when children die they will not be there to pick up the pieces or the blame."

Uptake of the MMR vaccine had reached a good level in previous years, but has now dropped back to 87 per cent.

"That means a lot of protection but it doesn't give us full immunity," Prof Davies explained.

In 1998, a study by former doctor Andrew Wakefield incorrectly linked the MMR vaccine to autism. Although this research is now discredited, it still has an impact as parents who search the internet for information.

Vaccination rates dropped to about 80 per in the late 1990s and a low of 79 per cent in 2003, largely as a result of the fear spread by Dr Wakefild's research.

Measles is an infectious viral disease spread by coughs and sneezes. Anyone who catches measles will feel very poorly. There is no treatment or cure for measles.

Complications include chest and ear infections, fits, diarrhoea, encephalitis (infection of the brain) and brain damage. According to the NHS, about one in 5,000 individuals with measles is likely to die and since 2006, there have been three deaths in England and Wales.

Mumps is a viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. Complications can include inflammation of the ovaries or testicles, and in rarer cases, the pancreas. Mumps can also cause viral meningitis and encephalitis.

Rubella is a viral illness, often called German measles, that is now rare in the UK thanks to the success of the MMR. Complications are most serious for pregnant women as it can cause problems for the foetus.

If your child is starting school in September 2019, and you want to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date, visit the NHS vaccinations website. You can also refer to your child's personal child health record (red book) for information on vaccinations.

Visit: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/be-well/your-health-and-wellbeing/childhood-vaccinations.