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Problems at the start of the vaccination rollout: Massive rush for appointments in NRW

Problems at the start of the vaccination rollout : Massive rush for appointments in NRW

Uncertainties among health-insured people due to forms, overloaded websites, busy hotlines: The allocation of vaccination appointments in NRW has started with problems. Bonn and the Rhein-Sieg district also felt the effects. Those responsible have reacted to the problems.

"An error has occurred, please try again later. " When Ina Nettekoven tried to arrange Corona vaccination appointments for her parents on Monday morning, only the error message appeared. And she couldn't reach anyone by phone either. "In between, I tried the hotline, which, as expected, is constantly busy," the woman from Bonn wrote to the GA. She was not alone with the problem. "I was not able to get an appointment at all, let alone make one," wrote Wolfgang Strobel from Bonn, for example. Many other readers also wrote to say that their attempts to make an appointment failed.

Since this Monday, people over 80 years of age living at home in North Rhine-Westphalia can get an appointment for the Corona vaccination. This group includes about 850,000 people. The rush on the hotlines and registration websites was great. Apparently too big. The responsible Associations of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KV) in North Rhine and Westphalia-Lippe spoke of an overload in the morning. At times it was not possible to book vaccination appointments. The problem was solved in the course of the day. "The bottleneck was caused by extreme demand in a short period of time," spokesperson Heiko Schmitz explained upon request. To avoid an overload of the online allocation, the number of simultaneous accesses had been limited. According to its own information, the KV has about 1200 employees working in the call centre. By late afternoon, around 130,000 appointments had been made for 65,000 people in the area of the KV North Rhine alone, and around 122,000 people across NRW.

According to Schmitz, the allocation of appointments is organised centrally. Both the staff in the call centre and the online site access the stock of possible appointments, he explained. In the first step, the appointments for the first three weeks are now allocated, then those for the next three weeks, he explained. The number of appointments also depends on the amount of vaccine.

The organisers ask for patience when making appointments. "No one has to worry about their vaccination or their appointment. Everyone who wants to be vaccinated will get it, but not immediately," explained Frank Bergmann and Dirk Spelmeyer, CEOs of KV Westfalen-Lippe and KV Nordrhein. "No one has to fear coming too late. “

Uncertainties in the allocation of appointments

However, the online forms also led to questions and uncertainties. GA reader Ina Nettekoven, for example, wanted to arrange two consecutive appointments for her parents. On the website, however, she found a note that this was not possible online. However, a joint appointment could be arranged by telephone, said KV spokesperson Heiko Schmitz. This option should also be available online as soon as possible.

Some readers stated that they had to give their insurance number - although this was not necessary according to the specifications. GA reader Hellmuth Neumann-Giesen also pointed out that as a privately insured person he did not have such a number and therefore could not provide an insurance number. The KV responded. "The field was optional to fill in and has since been removed completely because it was apparently irritating," the spokesperson explained.

Enquiries to the City of Bonn and the Rhein-Sieg district

Since many of the people from Bonn and the Rhein-Sieg district who wanted to be vaccinated were initially unable to get an appointment at the KV, they apparently tried their luck at the municipalities. But they are unable to make appointments. By 2 p.m., the city of Bonn had already received about a quarter more calls than the daily average so far. Most of them were about vaccination, as city spokeswoman Monika Hörig explained. "Many citizens interpreted the City of Bonn's information letter to mean that appointments could also be made through the health office and that appointments could only be made on today's day. “

People had often complained that it was not possible to make an appointment either via the hotline or via the website of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. People who are also in the highest prioritisation group, such as medical staff, but had not received a cover letter, were unhappy about the lack of information. "Many callers stated that they felt generally let down on this issue," Hörig said.

Unfortunately, the city's hotline cannot help with problems regarding vaccination appointments. "Citizens must remain persistent and unfortunately continue to try via the given channels," says Hörig. Because the hotline is primarily responsible for health-related questions about the coronavirus and is available to citizens who suspect they have been infected. "General questions about vaccination and the vaccination process will also be gladly answered or forwarded to the responsible case worker. “

The Rhine-Sieg district informed us that callers had tried the central office of the Siegburg district office or the Corona citizens' telephone. The district office pointed out that although it had set up the vaccination centre in Sankt Augustin, it could not give appointments. "We can't help, appointments are only available through the KV," said spokesperson Daniela Blumenthaler. Calls also reached Jaqueline Hiepler, KV chairperson in the Rhein-Sieg district. She told us this when asked by the GA. But she too could only refer people to the hotline and internet sites.

Request from the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians

About 70,000 people are to receive initial vaccinations per week in the 53 vaccination centres in NRW from 8 February. The NRW Ministry of Health expects 560,000 first vaccinations in the first eight weeks. Three weeks after the start, another 560,000 second vaccinations would then begin, said a ministry spokesperson. In all cases, the Biontech vaccine will be used, he said. "We cannot say at this time when other vaccines will be added.“

The associations of statutory health insurance physicians asked that only citizens over 80 call the hotline. All others will not get an appointment anyway. "All those who, according to the Corona vaccination ordinance, do not belong to the group of people over 80 are expressly asked not to call until the appointment allocation starts for them as well," the association informed. "In addition, the telephone registration facilities should not be used for general questions about the Corona vaccination, so as not to put additional strain on the lines. “

Jaqueline Hiepler does not believe that the rush for appointments will slow down in the coming days. "I can imagine that it will stay like this," said the KV chairwoman in the Rhein-Sieg district.

Original text: Alexander Hertel

Translation: Mareike Graepel