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​Lewisham stresses the importance of the MMR vaccine 

We're urging parents and guardians to help their children receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine if they haven't already done so.

Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious conditions that can have serious, potentially fatal complications, including meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness.

They can also lead to complications in pregnancy that affect the unborn baby, and can cause miscarriage.

The MMR vaccine is given on the NHS as a single injection to babies as part of their routine vaccination schedule, usually within a month of their first birthday. They'll then have a second injection of the vaccine after six months.

But only 87 per cent of children in England are receiving their second dose, which is below the 95 per cent government target for measles elimination.

Senior Clinical Director of Lewisham CCG, Dr Charles Gostling, said: "Sadly, anti-vaccine stories have spread online through social media, which are not based upon scientific evidence.

"One of the more commons myths is that there is a connection between the MMR jab and autism – but studies have found no evidence of a link. Other online myths have suggested that the vaccine contains mercury or it weakens the immune system – none of which are true."

Dr Gostling added: "But the reality is that measles can kill – and if you're not vaccinated, it's very easy to catch. If you have the slightest doubt about your child's vaccination status, ask your GP. It's never too late to get protected."

The MMR vaccine is also available to all adults and children who are not up to date with their two doses.

Anyone who is not sure if they are fully vaccinated should check with their GP and those planning to travel to Europe should check NaTHNaC travel health advice. Measles is now endemic in countries including France, Germany and Italy.

Dr Gostling added: "Because measles is highly infectious, even a small reduction in vaccination rates can have a damaging impact. Anyone who has not received both doses of MMR is at risk.

"In London, about one in four children starting primary school do not have the full protection that the MMR vaccine gives. We all have a part to play in encouraging the uptake of the MMR vaccine."

For more information about the MMR vaccine, visit the NHS website