Falling vaccination rates have sparked fears of a measles epidemic in Hounslow.
The percentage of two-year-olds in the borough receiving the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) jab has fallen from 74 in 2003/4 to less than 66 last year. The national take-up rate is 84.5 per cent.
There were more than 660 confirmed cases of measles in London during 2008, nearly 60 per cent up from the previous year, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency.
Health chiefs are set to launch a major advertising campaign later this month aimed at dispelling myths about the MMR jab and urging parents to get their children vaccinated.
Dr Simon Tanner, director of public health at NHS London, assured parents the MMR jab was totally safe and it was never too late to get your child immunised.
"Measles is highly contagious; a simple cough or sneeze is all it takes to spread the virus, so if your child is not immunised there is a high risk they will get measles," he added.
Vaccination rates have fallen sharply since Andrew Wakefield published research, which has since been widely discredited, suggesting a link between autism and the MMR jab in 1998.
Dr Bashir Qureshi, a locum GP based in Hounslow West, said the MMR jab was perfectly safe but that many parents remained unconvinced by the government's assurances.
He also pointed out that some Catholic mothers were unwilling to give their children the MMR vaccine because it was originally developed using an aborted foetus, while vegans are concerned about it being produced in an 'egg medium'.
"I support the MMR jab but I think the single measles vaccination should be available on the NHS because many mothers are very worried and it's arrogant of the Government to ignore them," he added.
A spokesman for NHS Hounslow said a change in the London-wide IT system may have led to an under-reporting of MMR take-up in the borough.
Pictures courtesy of Centers for Disease Control & Prevention