The uptake in Swindon of childhood vaccines that protect against common diseases has fallen since the pandemic.

Increased hesitation about getting the protective jabs has prompted the UK Health Security Agency to launch campaigns that aim to boost the uptake back to pre-Covid levels as cases of measles and whooping cough are surging across the country.

UKHSA figures show 86.8 per cent of five-year-olds in Swindon last year had both doses of the MMR vaccine which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

The uptake was down from 89.5 per cent in 2019-20.

This news comes as 730 cases of measles were reported in England since October last year. The outbreak was initially in Birmingham and the West Midlands, but cases have now also been identified in the North West, London, East Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Steve Russell, NHS England’s director of vaccinations and screening, said: "Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and can cause serious harm to adults and children of all ages.

"But the NHS MMR vaccine gives life-long protection against becoming seriously unwell, so with cases of measles on the rise, it is not worth the risk of going without this vital protection."

Across England, uptake of the MMR vaccine has fallen from 86.8 per cent in 2019-20 to 84.5 per cent last year.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant medical epidemiologist for immunisation at UKHSA, added: "Anyone who is not vaccinated against measles can catch it.

"Being unvaccinated also means you risk spreading the disease to others, including those at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill – like infants, who aren’t able to receive their MMR vaccine until their first birthday, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system."

Similarly, whooping cough cases are on the rise, with 553 confirmed in England in January, compared with 858 cases for all of last year.

These recent cases include 22 infants aged under three months.

In Swindon, uptake of the six-in-one vaccine given to babies when they are eight, 12, and 16 weeks old to protect against whooping cough and polio fell slightly from 94.4 per cent of two-year-olds in 2019-20, to 93.6 per cent last year.

Across England, uptake fell to 92.6 per cent compared to 93.8 per cent pre-pandemic.

Mr Russell said: "With whooping cough on the rise, it is important that families come forward to get the protection they need.

Pregnant women or children not up to date with their vaccine should contact their GP to organise an appointment.