Over fourteen thousand people in Estonia took the opportunity to register online for a coronavirus vaccine on Thursday, the first day the digital system had been open to residents aged 40 and above and marking nearly three-quarters' uptake of all available vaccine vacancies by the public.
Katrin Reinhold, director of the organization which manages the system, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Thursday that: "Interest has been very high and, in essence, from seven o'clock in the morning, demand started to rise, until about 1,000 reservations were being made per hour."
The high demand meant long waits for those trying to log-in and register. Reinhold said that in order to prevent the system crashing altogether, new users registering would be capped at 50 per minute.
She said: "Our own central system was originally set up to handle somewhere around 5,000 users at a time. As of now it set tp somewhere around 3,000 users at a time, since it became clear that without doing so, their queries would no longer receive the answered by healthcare providers."
From next Monday, registering will be open to all from age 16, meaning around half a million people will be eligible for vaccine registration.
Katrin Reinhold, director of the health and well-being information systems center (TEHIK), said that vaccination registry opened just after midnight Wednesday, with demand continuing to grow in the early morning.
Marek Seer, chief of Estonia's vaccination program, said that the high level of interest and subsequent waiting times had been anticipated.
Seer told AK that: "I am kind of happy about this, as cynical as it may sound, it demonstrates that acceptance of vaccination is high, meaning the 70 percent [inoculation of the Estonian populace] target will be met by the end of August."
At the same time, the high demand means that those wishing to log-in to the digital patient portal for other reasons have also been facing long wait times.
Katrin Reinhold said that while setting up a separate portal for vaccine registrations had been considered, it was decided, following cooperation with healthcare providers, to keep everything into one place.
Marek Seer noted that for some non-coronavirus vaccine-related activities, such as booking appointments with specialists or viewing test results, phoning the healthcare provider was an alternative option.
Twenty-thousand vaccine time-slots were set up to cover the next two weeks, while almost 75 percent of these were booked on Thursday alone, AK reported. Future schedules will match planned vaccine supplies, which should allow for 20,000 time-slots per week, AK reported.
Editor: Andrew Whyte