Covid-19: NHS vaccine booking system overwhelmed as over-25s try to get first jab

8 June 2021, 10:07 | Updated: 8 June 2021, 19:52

The NHS Covid-19 vaccine booking system has crashed as over-25s attempt to book their first jab
The NHS Covid-19 vaccine booking system has crashed as over-25s attempt to book their first jab. Picture: Angus Hamill
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The NHS Covid-19 vaccine booking system was overwhelmed on the first day over-25s were able to book their first dose.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens described it as a "Glastonbury-style" rush for appointments, with about 100,000 people an hour booking half a million jabs, or 1,600 a minute.

Thousands were stuck in queues throughout Tuesday morning, with many who got through told they were ineligible despite being over 25.

Some called 119 and were told to call back later in the week to book an appointment as the system struggles to cope with demand.

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Sir Simon said:

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: "This encouraging Glastonbury-style rush for appointments has already now seen hundreds of thousands of people between 25 and 29 book in for their NHS Covid jabs, as more vaccine supplies continue to come on line.

"Pleasingly this suggests strong enthusiasm for vaccination amongst people in their 20s, following hard on the heels of the millions of others who've already taken up our offer."

Stewart Holroyd, who tried to book an appointment early on Tuesday morning, told LBC: "I've been trying to book my Covid vaccine since 7am - only to be told I am not eligible.

"I called up the 119 helpline and the operator told me that the system still needed to finish updating and told me to wait a couple of days before trying to rebook.

"It's unacceptable for them to boast that 25s and over can book when they can't. I've been patiently waiting to book for months, so wouldn't mind waiting a few more days, but the fact that the NHS and Matt Hancock are telling people they can book when they can't is infuriating."

Aidan Gee, 25, tried to book an appointment twice at his local vaccination centre near Leicester but was turned away.

"If they knew they were going to be changing the age bracket today then they should have been better prepared for the demand," he said.

"If they managed to change the wording on their website to say 25 and over surely they should have been ready with the system too at the same time."

READ MORE: Number of UK regions seeing Covid rises at highest since early January

Speaking to LBC, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told young people to "wait for your text message" before trying to book an appointment.

Asked whether the issues were a serious problem with the system or a temporary glitch, he said: "I'll take a look at it as soon as I come off this interview but I suspect it's the latter as thousands of 25-year-olds trying to log on and get their appointments.

"We'll get it fixed - we've had these things before and we tend to fix it within hours so bear with us if it is a glitch.

"We're sending around 200,000 texts a day to 25-year-olds to get them so wait for your text message and then log on."

Over-25s eligible for a vaccine are being declined a first jab as the website struggles to cope
Over-25s eligible for a vaccine are being declined a first jab as the website struggles to cope. Picture: PA Images

Amber Fisher, 25, managed to book a jab for her partner but was told she was ineligible.

She told LBC: "I managed to get my partner one who is 28 but have tried again for myself in the last five minutes to be told the same thing."

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So far, almost 34 million first doses have been delivered in England - almost 80% of adults - while just over half (53%) have received a second jab as of Monday.

It is understood some of those experiencing have now been able to book an appointment after several attempts.

NHS England has been contacted for comment.