Thousands of elderly Germans are facing online error messages and jammed-up hotlines as technical problems marred the start of the coronavirus vaccine campaign for over-80s in the country’s most populous state
North Rhine-Westphalia state, whose population of almost 18 million is bigger than those of many European countries, began administering shots to nursing home residents and staff last month.
But people over 80 who are still living at their homes have been left waiting for appointments to get their first shots at vast vaccine centers, and many will likely have to wait even longer.
“Due to heightened demand, it’s currently not possible to book a vaccination appointment,” the website of the regional doctors’ association, which is organizing the system, informed users Monday. “We’re working hard to restore the online booking service again. Please try again later.”
The technical problems were an embarrassment for state governor Armin Laschet, who was just elected the new head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party.
Nationwide, fewer than 1.6 million people or about 1.9 % of the population had received their first shot by Sunday — a rate far lower than in Israel, Britain or the United States — and 228,763 had received their second dose.
Hospital staff in the western German state, which borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, had already complained bitterly that they hadn’t been offered the excess doses left over from vaccine drives at nursing homes.
Germany’s federal government has sought to distance itself from problems with the vaccine rollout, saying it’s the responsibility of individual states to organize those efforts on the ground.
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