Britons in their forties who tried to book a booster jab for the first time today joked it was a case of ‘computer says no’ as the NHS site was plagued with technical difficulties.
The booster campaign was officially opened to the age group today after ministers slashed the wait time between the second and third jabs from six months to three to shield against the incoming Omicron wave.
Some who tried to book were told they were ineligible despite having their second Covid vaccine more than three months ago, while others said the 119 phone system hadn’t been updated to embrace the rule change.
Professor of law and society Chris Ashford was one of those who knocked back by the booking system, despite being urged to come forward for his jab. He described the situation as ‘#computersaysno’.
In another case, journalist Helen Pidd said the NHS booking system told her husband he was ineligible for the jab despite getting his second in July.
News of booking system troubles come a day after official Government data showed the booster campaign had failed to accelerate, despite promises from No10 to put the drive on ‘steroids’.
Britain has pinned its hopes of fending off the mutant Omicron variant on the rollout and Boris Johnson has promised to offer all 53million eligible adults in Britain a jab by the end of January — even though it could take until February at the current rate.
Some over 40s have said the NHS booking system for the Covid boosters is telling them they are not currently able to get a jab
Professor of law and society Chris Ashford said it was a case of ‘computer says no’ when it came to attempting to book his Covid booster
In a message to health secretary Sajid Javid Helen Pidd said her husband was unable to book a Covid booster, despite having got his second jab five months ago
Pamela Nally was another person who should have been able to book a jab, but the NHS booking system told her she wasn’t eligible
Professor Ashford, who was one of those affected was one of those who knocked back by the booking system, joked the situation was a case of s ‘#computersaysno’.
‘I’ve read multiple news stories this morning that I am now in the group eligible for a booster vaccine and can book. Nobody seems to have told the NHS booking system,’ he wrote.
In a follow up message he added the situation was: ‘A mind bogglingly poor use of resource and messaging.’
So, who can book their jab from today?
People over 40-years-of-age who had their second Covid vaccine over three months ago should be able to book their Covid booster to happen as soon as possible.
Additionally, over-40s who had their second Covid jab two months ago should be able to book their Covid booster shot appointment in advance to get it once they past the new three-month wait period.
The NHS booster booking system is scheduled to undergo a further expansion on Monday letting the under 40s book their Covid booster appointment.
Ms Pidd, an editor for The Guardian, told health secretary Sajid Javid that her husband was unable to book his jab today, despite getting his second Covid vaccine five months ago.
‘Sajid, the website hasn’t yet been updated. 40-somethings can still only book for the booster if their second dose was 152 days+ ago. Just rang NHS to check and they said to wait until the booking service is updated. My husband gets this message and had his 2nd dose in July,’ she wrote.
Data manager, Pamela Nally, said the NHS website was failing to recognise her previous jab: ‘Should be able to book my #COVIDBooster but site not recognizing my vaccination and #119 not updated to allow booking past 5 month’.
In announcing today’s launch of the booster booking system for the over 40s, the NHS hinted that there might be issues.
A statement from NHS England outlined that the system would be updated over the course of the day: ‘The online booking system for vaccines will be updated this morning and details will be updated on the system throughout the day,’ it reads.
The NHS estimates that 7million people should have become eligible to book their Covid booster today.
It’s not the first time the NHS Covid vaccine booking system has run into trouble, in April the website crashed due to demand after the vaccines were opened up to the over-45s.
And yesterday, Boris Johnson today insisted that Britain’s Covid booster campaign was actually going faster than planned, despite data showing the country is still nowhere near meeting his 500,000-a-day target.
The Prime Minister last week promised to put the rollout on ‘steroids’ and ramp up the number of third doses delivered.
The current rate of the booster rollout means Britain will miss the deadline to offer every eligible adult a Covid booster shot by the end January, instead hitting this target by 10 February
When questioned about the speed of the booster programme yesterday, Mr Johnson claimed it was actually ahead of schedule, before adding it could go faster .
He told reporters: ‘The booster programme is the fastest in Europe, and I think we’ve done more boosters than any comparable country. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t go faster.
Maggie Keenan — the first person in the country to receive a Covid vaccine — urges people to come forward for a jab on rollout anniversary
Today marks a year since Margaret Keenan (pictured) became the first person in the world to receive a Covid jab as part of a mass vaccination programme
The grandmother who became the first person to become vaccinated in Britain a year ago today has urged people to come forward for a vaccine as the Government urges people to get their booster doses.
Margaret Keenan, who a year ago became the first person in the world to have a Covid jab, recently received her Covid booster and flu jabs and encouraged others too.
The 91-year-old said: ‘The best Christmas present I could have is being in good health and having had the jab and feeling free from this horrible virus.’
Mrs Keenan — known as Maggie — spoke at University Hospital Coventry where she received her first vaccine dose on December 8 last year at the start of the mass vaccine rollout.
Describing that moment, Mrs Keenan — a mother-of-two and grandmother-of-four from Coventry in the West Midlands — said: ‘It felt great, honestly, I could not believe that things went so well, afterwards.
‘At the time I wasn’t feeling good but once I got that jab and things started to be better, so I had a wonderful year — thanks to the NHS.’
Speaking about people who have not yet had any jab, she said: ‘It’s amazing how many people don’t want it.
‘I don’t know why because they should have it… everybody should have the jab.
‘I keep saying this over and over again.’
‘We’re ahead of our own timetable, we’ve done more than 20million boosters, I think we’ve done three-quarters of the people aged over 65.’
Mr Johnson added that he expected a booster acceleration once the programme is finally opened to under-40s next week.
‘And of course, from Monday, we will be contracting the intervals so you go down to three months and that will lead to a big uptick in the programme as well,’ he said.
Latest NHS data shows the UK is nowhere near the 500,000-a-day goal and is in fact delivering fewer booster jabs on some days than before Mr Johnson’s pledge.
Data published today lad bare the sluggishness of the booster programme with only 329,165 jabs given on Monday, the date for which the latest figures are available.
Despite promises to ramp up the scale of the booster rollout the is only about 10,000 more jabs than the same day last week, when 318,671 were given.
At the current speed of 2.7million per week, it will take until mid-February for every eligible Briton to be offered get their third Covid vaccine, almost two weeks after the Government’s end of January deadline.
The tech issues have slightly marred the rollout of the booster programme to the over 40s, coming on the one-year anniversary of the NHS delivering the first of the Covid vaccine in the UK.
One-year-ago today, British grandmother Margaret Keenan became the first person to become vaccinated in the UK and the world to receive a Covid vaccine outside of a medial trial, and launched the largest vaccine programme in history.
Several NHS and Government officials today urged people to get their booster shot as soon as possible to protect the country against Omicron.
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard urged people to come forward and book their booster as soon as possible to protect themselves from Omicron.
‘There is a lot we do not know about the Omicron variant but experts believe that even if existing vaccines are less effective they will give protection,’ she said.
‘So I would urge anyone eligible to come forward as soon as possible, and to keep checking for appointments in their area.’
Mr Javid also got in on the action, saying the Government was ‘boosting’ the rollout of the Covid booster jabs in Britain.
‘We are boosting our booster programme to get more jabs in arms more quickly and from today, millions of people over the age of 40 in England will be able to pre-book their booster jab two months after their second dose, a month ahead of them becoming eligible for their top up vaccine,’ he said.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of UK Health Security Agency, said it was vital people get their vaccines as quickly as they could as Omicron cases rose in Britain.
‘With increasing numbers of confirmed Omicron cases across the country, vaccination is critical to bolster our defences against this new variant. Please get your first, second or booster jab without delay,’ she said.
The NHS booster booking system is scheduled to undergo a further expansion on Monday, letting the under 40s book their Covid booster appointment.
The trouble with booking jabs, combined with pleas from officials to get them are familiar territory for the Covid booster campaign which has been described as ‘sluggish’ even after No.10 vowed to ramp up vaccine efforts.
The booster campaign, which launched in September called upon older Britons who were the first to get jabbed alongside health and care workers to come forward and get a third Covid vaccine.
But eligible people reported struggling to book jabs, or that they were being given appointment slots that were at inconvenient times or distant locations.
There have also been geographic divides in the Covid booster rollout, with just over a fifth of over-50s having had their top-up jab in parts of the country.
England’s Covid booster vaccine divide was laid bare today, with just over a fifth of over-50s having had their top-up jab in parts of the country. Graph shows: The proportion of people who have had a third dose in local authorities across the country
Just 21 per cent of over-50s in Sparkhill North, a suburb in Birmingham, had received a third jab by November 28. Thirteen other areas scattered between Birmingham, Nottingham, Essex and Bradford also fall below the 25 per cent mark
UK’s mammoth booster drive explained
– Every adult over the age of 18 in the UK will be offered a coronavirus booster jab by the end of January
– Jabs will be offered in five year descending age groups, starting with older adults and those who are most vulnerable before moving down
– The NHS will contact people when they are eligible to book an appointment for a jab and are urging people not to come forward until they’ve been invited
– Combined there will be nearly 3,000 sites across the UK offering vaccinations, nearly double current number
– There will be 1,500 community pharmacy sites to administer jabs and all will be told to increase capacity
– At least 400 military personnel will be deployed to assist NHS staff and volunteers to deliver the jabs
– GPs and community pharmacists will be incentivised to deliver more jabs, with the payment for standard delivery of a vaccination increased to £15 a shot
– An extra £5 per shot will be offered to GPs and pharmacists if they work on Sundays
– A £30 premium will be offered to GPs and pharmacists for vaccinations delivered to people who are housebound
– The Care Quality Commission will continue a pause on routine inspections of general practice to free up clinicians’ time
– The NHS is looking at eliminating the 15 minute wait post-vaccination to increase the number of people who can access smaller venues
– The NHS is recruiting for up to 10,000 new paid vaccinator roles as well as for an army of ‘tens of thousands’ of new volunteers to help with the drive
– Unpaid volunteers will guide people at vaccination centres and must work at least two shifts each month
– 53million will eventually be eligible and 22m are eligible and have not had a booster now
A MailOnline analysis shows some areas have already dished out third doses to 90 per cent of the most vulnerable adults, who were originally prioritised in the rollout.
But dozens of inner-city areas are massively lagging behind in the roll-out, according to this website’s analysis of NHS figures.
Just 21 per cent of over-50s in Sparkhill North, a suburb in Birmingham, had received a third jab by November 28. Thirteen other areas scattered between Birmingham, Nottingham, Essex and Bradford also fall below the 25 per cent mark.
Experts slammed the unequal rollout, arguing it meant areas in the country where uptake is low are more vulnerable to the impending wave.
Professor David Livermore, a medical microbiologist at the University of East Anglia (UEA), told MailOnline: ‘Clearly these data reveal considerable variation in the efficiency of booster roll out. The NHS should reboot delivery of the programme in lagging areas.’
MailOnline’s analysis shows Felixstowe East in Suffolk has the highest uptake rate in the country, with 85.7 per cent of its over-50s having already had a booster.
Two other areas had uptake above 85 per cent, with Yately East in Hampshire (85.5 per cent) followed by Bushey Heath in Hertfordshire (85.3 per cent).
They were followed by Fleet South and Pondtail in Hampshire (84.4 per cent), South Knutsford and Bexton in Cheshire (83.6 per cent) and Frimley Green in Surrey (83.4 per cent).
At the other end of the scale, Hyson Green in Nottingham had the next lowest booster uptake among over-50s in the country after Sparkhill North, with just 21.1 per cent of those in the age group coming forward for a third jab.
It was followed by Sparbrook South (21.9 per cent), Small Health Park (22.9 per cent) and Hockley and Jewellery Quarter (23.2 per cent) — all in Birmingham.
The analysis uses Office for National Statistics (ONS) population estimates from 2020, based on population census from 2011 so is subject to a degree of uncertainty.
Data for first and second doses in particular overestimates the number of under-50s living in particular neighbourhoods because university students may be registered at old addresses.
James Lawson, fellow at the Adam Smith Institute thinktank, told MailOnline: ‘It is disappointing once again to see that the vaccine campaign is lacking pace, with huge regional disparities in booster shots for the vulnerable.
‘There is an over 60 point gap between the most vaccinated and least vaccinated areas. The problem is particularly acute in Birmingham and Nottingham.
‘It’s shameful the vaccine campaign has languished given the Government now looks set to rush back to infringements on our most precious liberties — restrictions its own ministers can’t even comply with, undermining the basic fabric of the rule of law.
‘The vaccines reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 90 per cent, and there are new treatments, significantly reducing the risk the virus poses and changing the cost benefit analysis of restrictions.
‘Instead of pursuing a callous and costly plan B, the government should be using every lever available to maintain confidence around Plan A. We must learn to live with Covid and effective vaccinations for the vulnerable provide the best protection, not knee-jerk restrictions.’
In other Covid news today, ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson today admitted that another nationwide shutdown could be on the cards to tackle Omicron as he warned the super variant will be dominant before Christmas.
The Government scientist, whose modelling bounced No10 into the original lockdown last spring, said the return of stay-at-home orders ‘certainly might be possible’ if the mutant strain threatens to overwhelm the NHS.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘There is a rationale, just epidemiologically, to try and slow this down, to buy us more time principally to get boosters into people’s arms because we do think people who are boosted will have the best level of protection possible, but also to buy us more time to really better characterise the threat.’
Asked outright if a lockdown could be reimposed, he said: ‘Clearly if the consensus is it’s highly likely that the NHS is overwhelmed then it will be for the Government to decide what to do about that but it’s a difficult situation to be in of course. It certainly might be possible at the current time.’
It is unclear how the British public would react to social restrictions over Christmas after fresh allegations surfaced this week that Boris Johnson held a rule-breaking lockdown party in Downing Street last December, when millions of Britons were unable to visit loved ones.
According to reports, No10 is already drawing up new plans for Britons to work from home and for offices to be closed in an attempt to avoid bringing in harsher Christmas curbs.
Eminent epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector claimed infections of the highly evolved variant were doubling every two days. The above graph shows how the number of daily cases of Omicron could breach the 100,000 barrier before New Year’s Day, if that pace continues
Mr Johnson and his chief scientists are said to have given a ‘sobering’ Omicron briefing to Cabinet yesterday in an effort to soften up ministers for tougher curbs.
Britain recorded by 45,691 Covid cases yesterday, a 15 per cent increase went up yesterday, compared to the same day last week.
Deaths from their virus also jumped up, with an increase 13 per cent to 180 fatalities.