Covid vaccine: People ‘jumping the queue’ for appointments due to IT loophole

Adam Forrest
·4 min read
Vaccination centre in Wembley, north-west London (AFP via Getty Images)
Vaccination centre in Wembley, north-west London (AFP via Getty Images)

People who are not yet eligible for the coronavirus vaccine have been able to skip the queue and arrange appointments ahead of those on the priority list using an IT loophole in the online system.

Swiftqueue website links intended to allow over-70s and healthcare workers in England book their jabs have been shared on social media – and people using them have made appointments without being asked for proof of eligibility.

There have been reports of some people not on the current priority list managing to get the Covid-19 vaccine fraudulently using the links. One Labour MP said he knew of someone in their mid-50s, not yet eligible for the jab, getting their first dose after booking an appointment on Swiftqueue.

On Thursday morning The Independent was able to use one of the Swiftqueue links to book an appointment for the first dose for 3pm on Monday at a clinic in Nottinghamshire, with the follow-up jab scheduled for 13 April.

The appointments were quickly cancelled so that no was deprived of a jab, and the times then became available again.

Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, said he first heard of ineligible people in his constituency using a Swiftqueue link to get the jab on Monday evening, when he received a text with the URL for local clinics.

“So I went onto this link and booked on myself and it gave me an appointment as a 50-year-old – it didn’t ask me if I was a key worker,” he told the Evening Standard, which first revealed the loophole.

“It allowed me to book on without my NHS number and it just gave me an appointment go down tomorrow at 10.10am. Obviously having done that I cancelled it – I wouldn’t actually want to take someone’s appointment.”

He added: “I went down and spoke to the primary care network yesterday and they are very conscious of it and they told me that don’t worry we challenge anyone who comes here and anyone who turns up who can’t verify they are a key worker will be turned away.”

Mr Perkins said he knew of someone in their mid-50s, not on any priority list, who had been given the vaccine after securing an appointment using Swiftqueue.

The Evening Standard claimed to have seen evidence showing ineligible people have managed to secure Covid jabs using the Swiftqueue portal in east London. A link meant for staff at the East London NHS Foundation Trust is thought to have been shared with others who do not work there.

A spokesman for the East London NHS Foundation Trust said: “People attending appointments … will be asked for proof that they have personally been invited for a vaccination and belong to one of these priority cohorts, to ensure that no one who is currently ineligible for the vaccine receives it as a result of making a false online declaration.”

NHS nurse receives vaccine in BlackburnReuters
NHS nurse receives vaccine in BlackburnReuters

Swiftqueue has insisted that anyone booking vaccine appointments who are not eligible would be asked for ID in person at their local clinic and turned away. The company has not yet responded to questions from The Independent asking whether any changes had been made to ensure only people who are eligible can book appointments.

In a statement, the company’s chief executive Brendan Casey said that “anyone who books to get the vaccine fraudulently will be turned away – full stop”.

He added: “Some people have used links shared with them to try and falsely get the Covid vaccine. If they book and attend the clinic to try and jump the queue and they do not have proof of eligibility and they will be turned away.

“If you do get an invitation by a shared link dishonestly to make an appointment, I am asking that you don’t – as you will be wasting healthcare workers valuable time and you won’t be vaccinated. You must be eligible to be vaccinated to receive the vaccine.”

Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, said it was “extremely worrying” that some people in east London had reportedly jumped the queue and got the jab ahead of schedule.

“I urge people not to follow suit and use these links or try to blag their way into vaccine centres or try to find loopholes and so undermine the hard work being done by so many to get the vaccine out to those who are most at risk at harm.”

Mr Perkins said it was “very disturbing” the system appeared so open to abuse.

“If anyone with the URL is able to book on, you need some way of stopping those who are not entitled," he added. It would be far better to prevent them booking in the first place.”

The Independent has contacted NHS England for comment.

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