ABOUT 4,000 children in Bolton have not been fully vaccinated against measles.

Health protection specialists are urging parents to make sure their children have had both the first MMR jab and the booster injection to help stop an outbreak that has hit the borough.

In 2012 there were 79 confirmed cases of measles in Bolton, compared to just one in 2011 — accounting for more than a third of measles cases in Greater Manchester.

The majority of the cases were recorded in November and December after an outbreak at Harper Green School, in Farnworth, and a private nursery in Bromley Cross.

Since then, health protection staff and school nurses have immunised almost 500 schoolchildren whose jabs were not up-to-date. But, according to figures from Bolton’s Children’s Health Information Service, there are still about 4,000 youngsters — aged between 12-and-a-half months and 18 years — who have not been immunised.

So far this year there have been four confirmed cases and six possible cases in Bolton and the outbreak could continue to spread if children are not protected.

The majority of the cases of measles, and the largest proportion of those not fully immunised, is in the age range of 10 to 14 years.

Health protection specialist Graham Munslow, from NHS Bolton, said many of these children had not been vaccinated because of controversial research, published when they were babies, which claimed to link the MMR jab with autism. Mr Munslow said measles, which is preventable, could be a damaging disease leading to disabilities and in some cases, death.

He said it was “disappointing” that youngsters had not been immunised.

“A lot of the information that people look up on the internet is not evidence-based. But there is still a battle out there in terms of convincing people that the MMR is safe,” he added.

Mr Munslow urged parents to contact their GP to find out if their child was up-to-date with the jabs and to get them immunised. The MMR injection and booster is free for under 18s.