The NHS system for booking booster Covid jabs is blocking patients from getting their vaccines, it has emerged, despite the Health Secretary’s pledge that anyone who is eligible can use the website.
Sajid Javid confirmed on Wednesday that over-50s can book a booster within a week of becoming eligible even if they have not received an invitation from the health service.
“If you haven’t been invited within a week of reaching that six-month milestone, then please get on to the National Booking Service and book online or phone 119,” Mr Javid said at a Downing Street press conference.
“We really could lose that progress if people don’t take up their vaccination offers.”
But eligible patients said the website was still blocking them from making an appointment and called on the Health Secretary to fix the problem rather than blaming patients.
The NHS site also still says patients will be contacted when they are eligible to book, contrary to Mr Javid’s comments.
Maureen Stewart Jones, a retired teacher who is 81, said she is yet to be invited for her booster but was told by the NHS website and 119 that she is not eligible. “They are sending me from pillar to post,” she told The Telegraph.
It is now six months and a week since she received her second dose but when she tried to book the jab through 119, the vaccine helpline, she was told to use the online system.
“I used the link, I went online, added all my details but I was told I am not eligible for booking the booster and they suggested I get in touch with 119,” she said. “I am 81, I had my second injection on April 14, which is over six months. There’s no real evidence that I am going to be called – I am just being told I am not eligible, which I don’t understand.”
She said Mr Javid “obviously doesn’t know anything about” the situation “otherwise he would know people cannot do it online” and added: “I don’t go out as much as I used to… I’ve looked after myself, I’ve been very very careful. I don’t want to jeopardise that – I just want my booster.”
Edward Argar, the health minister, said on Thursday that people no longer needed to wait to be invited to get their booster vaccine if the right amount of time had passed.
“We’ve made a change, which is it’s not just about waiting to be invited,” he told Sky News. “If you get to the six months plus one week, go on the national booking system and book yourself in.”
But others have spoken of their difficulties in getting an appointment through the NHS booking site.
Rick Wiggans wrote on Twitter: “Ok, if you want me to have my booster, best make one available. Am now more than six months after second jab. Try to book, you can’t. Maybe fix your website instead of blaming the public.”
Another user in Cambridge wrote: “I have waited more than the full six months and I can’t book a booster. The website says I am not eligible. I am. I called 119 and they said they use the same system so they can’t do anything about it and I need to wait to be invited.”
Ed Baines said he was invited to book his booster from the NHS via text but was still unable to do so. “They gave me a website and a phone number to book. The website told me it was not available for booking boosters,” he said.
He rang the national booking line and was “offered a slot 17 miles away”, despite a vaccine centre being located “just up the road”.
An NHS spokesman said: “Over four million people have already received their top-up jab, with around 5.5 million people invited and almost two million more due to get their invite this week as they become eligible.
“People who are eligible can book in for their vaccination through the national booking service or by calling 119.”