A HEALTH chief has warned there is a "higher risk of a measles outbreak" in Croydon than elsewhere, because far fewer children here are given the MMR jab.
The most up-to-date figures show that in Croydon, 26.9 per cent of children are missing out on the two doses recommended for under-fives and 16.5 per cent are not receiving the first dose for under-twos.
This is much lower than the national average, where just 9 per cent miss the first dose and 14 per cent have just one.
Even in London, which has lower levels than the rest of the country, the average take-up is higher than it is here.
Mike Robinson, the borough's director of public health, is now urging parents to make sure their children are vaccinated to prevent an outbreak like the crisis in South Wales; especially now it transpires one in four children would be susceptible to the disease.
He told the Advertiser: "Croydon does have a higher risk of an outbreak because rates are lower. I think many parents, who may have had measles when they were younger do not think the disease is a problem, but it is far from harmless.
"It can lead to significant complications and some people do die from it. Since the MMR vaccine entered the NHS in the 1980s, there has only been one death in the country – that's how important the jab is."
Dr Robinson said the low number of children vaccinated with MMR in Croydon was largely down to the borough's "transient population".
"This means that people move within the borough or from outside into Croydon and do not necessarily register their families with a GP immediately," he said.
"Then they do not get the reminders to vaccinate their children at the right time and often miss out on the jabs altogether.
"The other problem is our computer system that collects information from GPs and produces figures is not as accurate as we'd like.
"We also have more people arriving from abroad with incomplete medical records which makes monitoring the number of people with vaccinations even more difficult."
Mr Robinson said the only way to protect against an outbreak of measles was to get everyone vaccinated.
He added: "Measles is highly infectious so it becomes everyone's responsibility to make sure they and their children get the jabs. Logically, the more people we have vaccinated, the smaller the risk of an outbreak is."
Wendy Ager, who used to work at a children's centre in Coulsdon, said she had both her children vaccinated as soon as she knew the link between MMR and autism had been discredited.
"Most of the parents I have come across have done the same. Measles is a nasty disease and you do not want it to spread," she said.
"If Croydon has lower rates of children getting jabbed then parents should do what the government says immediately and get their kids vaccinated."
Earlier this week, Dr Yvonne Doyle, the regional director of Public Health London, called on all local authorities to push the issue of the MMR vaccine, to prevent an outbreak in the capital.
There have been about 60 cases of measles in London so far this year, with 10 to 14-year-olds at the most risk because of previous lack of vaccination in this age group during the MMR and autism scare.
Publicity surrounding the MMR issue has been heightened, after a huge outbreak in Swansea in recent weeks.