Frustration amid surge in demand for third dose with many turned away despite being eligible
Image: Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock)
People hoping to register for a Covid booster jab on the NHS website are being turned away after queuing behind thousands of others, hours after the government announced all adults in the UK would be eligible to receive a third dose.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation made the series of recommendations on Monday to expand the booster rollout to everyone aged over 18, with the minimum gap between the second dose and booster to be reduced from six to three months.
The booster rollout will be offered in order of ascending age groups and has been sped up to reflect growing concern over the impact of the new Covid variant Omicron on a potential wave of infections.
The announcement prompted thousands to attempt to register for a booster vaccine appointment on the NHS website.
People waited in a queue to access the booking page, with 3,000 held in a virtual line ready to book.
By Monday night the NHS website had updated to reflect the new guidance, but said that the JCVI’s plans to offer a booster dose to everyone aged 18 years old and over was “not yet available”.
Many people who waited in the virtual queue found themselves unable to register for a vaccine appointment despite being newly eligible.
One person wrote on Twitter : “They told me I could book my booster but when I tried it said I was 2996th on the queue and when I got to the front they said, no sorry, not eligible.”
When a Daily Mirror journalist under the age of 40 attempted to register, despite receiving their second dose almost six months ago, they were told they were not yet eligible, despite fitting the new criteria.
The notice reads: “You are currently not able to book through this service. If you think you’re eligible for a booster dose and it’s been more than 152 days (five months) since your second dose, please call the helpline on 119.”
Meanwhile, people who were already eligible for a booster jab have reportedly struggled to access a vaccine.
Some over-40s are facing waits of over a month, spending hours on the phone to their GP or booking service, or being directed to vaccination sites tens of miles from where they live, MailOnline reports.
One couple in their 80s, Brian Bull and his partner Jennifer, said they encountered difficulties booking their boosters because of confusing instructions on the NHS website.
Mr Bull, 83, was due for his jab nearly a month ago but has been repeatedly turned away from his local clinic in Appleby, Cumbria.
He said: “The NHS website said there was a walk-in centre at Penrith. We drove the 14 miles only for the receptionist to say she knew nothing about it.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department for Health said: “The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) previously advised that those aged over 40 years and those at higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) should be offered a booster.
“This new JCVI advice means those aged 18 to 39 will also be eligible for a booster when the NHS calls them forward.
“The booster will be offered in order of descending age groups, with priority given to the vaccination of older adults and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group.
“In response to the changing risk posed by the Omicron variant, the booster will now be given no sooner than 3 months after the primary course.
“In addition, a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (30 microgram) for young people aged 12 to 15 years is advised no sooner than 12 weeks after the first dose.
“The overall intention of the measures advised above is to accelerate the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and raise levels of protection across the population.”