Nearly 500,000 Covid-19 jabs were booked in a “Glastonbury-style” rush after the vaccine rollout was expanded to 25 to 29-year-olds in England, the NHS has said.
NHS England said the National Booking Service had seen 493,000 appointments reserved by midday on Tuesday, five hours after eligibility was widened to the over-25s.
It is more than double the number booked the previous day and equates to about 100,000 bookings an hour.
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NHS England 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”.
The surge comes on the six-month anniversary of grandmother Margaret Keenan, 91, becoming the first patient in the world to receive a Covid-19 jab outside a clinical trial when she was given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Coventry on December 8.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am absolutely thrilled young people have come forward for the jab in full force today. We have one of the highest vaccine uptake rates in the world and these latest booking figures are testament to this”.
Despite the surge, scores of young people reported problems with the booking website on Tuesday morning, with some posting screenshots on social media, showing an error message telling them that they are “not currently eligible to book through this service”.
It directs them to call the 119 helpline to try to book a vaccination.
Others reported being told they were in a queue of thousands.
A spokesperson for NHS Digital said: “Large numbers of people are currently booking their vaccine appointments through the NHS website, which means you may need to wait in a queue.
“We know that some people have been receiving an ineligible message when trying to book, which is being fixed now, so please retry”.
Others have complained that because the NHS booking site requires both jabs to be booked at the same time, this has created further problems.
Twitter user Lee Chin-Ford was on attempt number 5 to book a jab, but was left "stuck in a loop" as no slots were available for the second shot.
Another user, Alex, facing the same issue, jokingly quipped that second jabs were only available to book at places as far as the "distance Frodo travelled to Mordor".
"Why can't we just book the first first, and then tackle the second later?" he asked.
The vaccine booking website has suffered glitches in the past, notably crashing in April after appointments were being opened up to the over-45s.
Last month, an apparent security flaw was also uncovered in the website which could allow anyone to work out another person’s vaccination status by entering their basic personal information – name, date of birth and postcode.
Privacy experts warned the flaw was exposing personal health information which could be exploited by scammers.
At the time, NHS Digital said it was reviewing and improving the standard messages that were presented on the website.