The National Booking Service has begun carefully trialling a text message service for Covid-19 vaccination invitations and reminders, in addition to the letters that are currently sent to eligible people. Over 400,000 people aged 55 or in receipt of Carer’s Allowance will be the first to receive text message invites this week (Tuesday 9 March).
People receiving these text messages will be invited to book online at nhs.uk/covidvaccine or by calling 119, for an appointment at a local Vaccination Centre or pharmacy-led site. During this trial, text messages will be sent in addition to letters, to ensure that everyone receives their invitation.
Who will send the text, how do I know it is genuine?
The text message will be sent using the Government’s secure Notify service. They will appear as being sent from NHSvaccine; this name has been protected so it can’t be used by any other text messaging service.
The initial invite message will read:
NHS – You are now eligible for your free NHS coronavirus vaccination. Please book online at https://www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119. You will need to provide your name, date of birth and postcode. Your phone number has been obtained from your GP records.
Letters will continue to be sent to all eligible individuals in parallel. If someone does not respond to the initial text message and letter invite after 2-3 weeks, and no vaccination record is made by another service, the NHS will send a further message and letter.
The message will read:
NHS – Reminder: please book your free coronavirus vaccination online at https://www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119. Protect yourself and others.
Here is a video clip explaining the process of receiving a text message and booking an appointment.
Your Questions Answered
Why is the NHS doing this?
Text messages are already being used by local vaccination services. The NHS National Booking Service is trialling this approach to see whether it helps to reach eligible individuals and encourage them to book their appointment faster than the letters used so far, and whether receiving an invite in this way is preferable for those in younger age groups.
How does the national NHS know my mobile number?
The NHS has been using contact details – including addresses and now mobile phone numbers –given to us by patients and recorded in their GP patient record.
I share a mobile phone with others in my household – how do we know which of us is invited?
If you share a mobile phone with other adults then you can try to book online. If you are not eligible yet then the booking system will not let you book until you are. You could also wait for your invite letter to arrive to be sure.
I’ve received a text message invite from my GP or local hospital, is this the same?
No. This service is in addition to the texts sent out by some local services. If you have received a text message or any other kind of invite from another vaccination service and have booked an appointment, then please ignore the text messages.
I booked after receiving a text message but no letter came – does this mean I have fallen for a scam?
Not necessarily. If your text message came from ‘NHSvaccine’, included a link to the NHS.uk/covid-vaccination website and gave you the option of phoning 119, then it was genuine. There are other reasons why you may not have received a letter, such as:
• If you have moved recently and forgotten to update your GP practice records or register with a new one;
• If your address is recorded incorrectly with your GP, or;
• If the text message was from a local vaccination service.
If in doubt you can check with the organisation you think you have booked in with.
I’ve already had my first dose of the vaccine and have now received a text message from the NHS. Does this mean my dose wasn’t recorded properly?/Can I use this to book my second dose?
In a small number of cases you might still receive a text message and a letter after recently receiving your first dose. This will be because there can be a few days lag between being vaccinated and your record being updated. If you have already been vaccinated or have a vaccination booked, please ignore the message –there is nothing you need to do.
You will not be able to use this service to book your second dose – you should continue to wait to be invited back by the service where you got your first dose. If you were vaccinated a long time ago and still received a text message, you may wish to get in contact with whichever service you received your vaccination at to ensure they recorded it properly.
How do I know this is a legitimate text?
You can trust your text message is genuine if it comes from ‘NHSvaccine’, includes a link to the NHS.uk website and gives you the option of phoning 119. If you’re still unsure, you can wait for your letter to arrive – if the message was genuine your letter should be delivered a few days after.
Remember, the COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge on the NHS. The NHS will never ask for:
• your bank account or card details
• your pin or banking password
• copies of personal documents to prove your identity such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips
The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud or identify theft, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
I received a text but someone else in my household who is in the same age group didn’t. Can they book?
Not everyone will receive a text message, because we don’t have everyone’s mobile phone number from their GP patient record, and in some cases the mobile phone numbers we do have will be out of date. If someone is in an eligible group and doesn’t receive a text, it’s probably for this reason, and they should receive a letter very soon.
I received this text message but I am not in an eligible group and the booking website wouldn’t let me book – why?
The NHS can only send text messages to people who are eligible based on the information provided in their GP patient records. In a small number of cases, it might be the case that the mobile number we have for someone has lapsed and has since been recycled and allocated to you. Alternatively, someone with a similar number who is eligible may have entered their number incorrectly on their GP record.
I’ve contacted the national booking service but I can’t travel to one of the locations that are available, what should I do?
More locations will become available in the coming weeks so you could try again later.Alternatively, you can choose to wait until your local GP service invites you for the vaccine.
What are the operating hours of the telephone booking system?
The telephone booking service will be open 16 hours a day (from 7am until 11pm), seven days a week. People will also be able to book online 24/7.
What should people do if they can’t get through to the phone line straight away?
At times, due to high demand, the phone line will get very busy, which may mean waiting on the line for a while or calling back later. You can alternatively book online. If you need help to do this, please ask someone in your support bubble.
Does this service work for people who don’t understand English well or are deaf?
The phone line will have interpreters and a BSL facility available on request to help you book your appointments.