One in 10 children in Swindon have not been properly vaccinated against potentially fatal measles.

And doctors in the town have made a desperate plea to parents to make sure their youngsters are fully immunised before they start school again in just two weeks.

They are among 5,000 children in the south west who aren’t properly protected from measles, mumps and rubella

Dr Peter Swinyard, who runs the Phoenix Surgery in Toothill, said: “It’s very sad because there is a measles epidemic. I think people have forgotten how nasty it is because I remember how awful it was as it can make you deaf and you can die.”

According to figures released by Public Health England 3,226 Swindon five-year-olds had one dose of the MMR vaccination – 96 per cent. But the number for two doses, which are needed for full protection from the diseases before children start school was 3,034, or 90.3 per cent. In Wiltshire the figure was event worse at 89.1 per cent. The target set by health experts is 95 per cent.

Dr Swinyard blamed Andrew Wakefield, whose report – later debunked and discredited – linked the MMR jab to autism.

“The awful doctor who had been blasting nonsense research about autism has been contradicted by science,” he said. “But people will believe what they want to believe and it’s sad because children don’t get the choice whether to get vaccinated or not.”

The problem has been amplified by social media which has made it easier for false information to be spread.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has urged social media companies to promote accurate information on vaccinations.

Ayoola Oyinloye, Swindon Borough Council’s interim director of public health, said: “Measles is a highly infectious but preventable disease which has recently caused severe illness in some children.

“Measles spreads quickly before symptoms are seen and is more likely to be seen in places where children congregate, such as schools. The good news is that the majority of children in Swindon are vaccinated against Measles.

“The MMR vaccine has been proved as a safe and highly effective vaccination for children and is offered at 13 months and again at three to four. It is important to have both vaccinations as this better protects children.

She urged parents of under fives to check their children’s red books or GP records to make sure they had been given both jabs and to get them booked in as soon as possible if not.

“If a child is already at school, college or about to head off to university it’s not too late to check their vaccination status and get the MMR vaccine.”

Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases and can be spread by coughing and sneezing.

Most people that do catch the disease will recover but sometimes it can lead to life-threatening complications.

In 2016 the World Health Organisation labelled the UK measles-free but three years later it has lost its status and now measles cases are rising.

The MMR vaccine is usually given to children at 12 months and a second dose is given before they start school. The four-in-one booster is usually given when children are three years and four months.

In the South West 100,000 five-year-olds might still need their second vaccination and 6,000 might still need their four-in-one pre-school booster that protects them against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.

The risks for people with compromised immunity, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, are also increased when fewer children are vaccinated.

Dr Julie Yates, lead consultant for screening and immunisation for PHE South West, said: “It’s a real concern that so many young children in our region could be starting school without the full protection that the NHS childhood immunisation programme offers for free. We know that parents want the best protection for their children and so many may be unaware that their child is not up-to-date. We’re urging all parents of primary school starters to check their child’s Red Book now to make sure there is a record of two MMR doses and the 4-in-1 booster vaccine. If not, parents should contact their GP practice to arrange any further vaccinations that are needed.”