NHS Website Crashed After People Aged 45 And Over Tried To Book Covid Vaccine
The first phase of the UK vaccine rollout has been completed and those aged 45 and over are now being called to get a jab (Alamy)
Anyone aged 45 and over can now book their first dose of a Covid vaccine as the second phase of the government’s rollout has begun.
On Monday the government confirmed the target of offering everyone over 50, and those deemed to be "clinically extremely vulnerable”, a jab before 15 April was met three days early.
This morning NHS patients in England will also start receiving the Moderna version of the coronavirus vaccine, officials have confirmed.
The third jab to be approved for use, its introduction “marks another milestone” in the vaccination programme according to Professor Stephen Powis, medical director for NHS England, after warnings of a "significant reduction in weekly supply" during April.
The government had said it wanted to start vaccinating everyone in the first nine cohorts of those at highest risk from the disease, as outlined by Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) before Friday, around 32 million people.
Figures show almost 40 million vaccine doses have now been given across the UK, including 32,190,576 first doses and 7,656,205 second doses, meaning the next phase can begin today.
But by 8.30am on Tuesday, minutes after the call for bookings was announced, the online portal for booking vaccination appointments had already crashed, displaying the message: "The NHS website is currently experiencing technical difficulties.
"We are working to resolve these issues. Thank you for your patience."
Other users reported being assigned a numbered place in a queue, with a holding screen which read: "You are in a queue. Lots of people trying to book an appointment.”
The vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted shortly afterwards the issue was now "fixed".
Boris Johnson welcomed the start of phase two, and believed the UK remained on course to offer a first jab to all adults by the end of July.
"We have now passed another hugely significant milestone in our vaccine programme by offering jabs to everyone in the nine highest risk groups," he said.
"That means more than 32 million people have been given the precious protection vaccines provide against Covid 19.
"I want to thank everyone involved in the vaccine rollout which has already saved many thousands of lives."
Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the JCVI, used a cycling analogy to describe the programme’s success so far: ”It's obviously great news but we're only halfway up the hill.
"You're used to soccer analogies but I'm a cyclist. We're at the bottom of the valley, the sun is on our face.
"We've got some thin air and the legs are getting tired.
"We need to get to the top so it's good to get shouts of 'bon courage' from people by the road but we shouldn't take our eye of the task and we've got to get to the top.”
Professor Finn said the introduction of the Moderna vaccine more widely, having first been used in Wales last week, was "enormously important”.
He told BBC Breakfast: "The programme hasn't been able to move forward quite as fast as it would have if there had been more vaccine supply this month.
"Having this additional supply of Moderna is clearly going to speed that up and enable us to get started on phase two and people in their forties."
He said the UK’s vaccine programme needed three things; supplies of vaccines, teams of NHS staff and volunteers, and people coming forward to "roll up their sleeves, in order to keep rollout steady".
"As long as we can go on putting those three things together we can get the job finished, but it will take another two or three months to get everyone their first dose," Finn added.