Nearly half a million coronavirus vaccine appointments were booked in the space of a few hours on Tuesday morning in what the NHS called a “Glastonbury-style” rush as people aged 25 to 29 scrambled to book their jab, the NHS has said.
The rush for appointments came on the first day that people under the age of 30 in England were eligible for the jab in the next step of the vaccination programme.
By noon on Tuesday, just five hours after eligibility widened to the over-25s, the National Booking website had seen 493,000 appointments reserved.
The number was more than double the number booked the previous day, and an average of 100,000 bookings an hour, NHS England said.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the rush clearly showed the “strong enthusiasm” for vaccinations in younger people, likening it to the annual scramble for Glastonbury Festival tickets.
He 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 online.
“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.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock said he was “absolutely thrilled” by the numbers. “We have one of the highest vaccine uptake rates in the world and these latest booking figures are testament to this,” he said.
On Monday, Mr Hancock announced anyone aged 25 or over would be able to book in for a COVID-19 vaccine from Tuesday morning in an expansion of the eligibility criteria.
But some 25 to 29-year-olds reported they were still being turned away by the NHS booking system on Tuesday morning.
Social media users shared screenshots of the NHS site they were “not currently eligible to book through this service”, despite ministers saying the vaccination programme was now open to this cohort.
One 25-year-old also told The Independent they were turned away after calling the NHS on 119 to book on Tuesday morning, being told they were not eligible for the jab yet.
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.”
They added: “We know that some people have been receiving an ineligible message when trying to book, which is being fixed now, so please retry.”