Ministers have pledged all adults over the age of 18 will be offered a booster jab by the end of January, and NHS England has promised bookings will open to all over-30s no later than 13 December.
People in their 30s have found they can book their booster jab now before the rollout of third Covid vaccine doses officially opens for under-40s.
The government has yet to announce a third vaccine dose is available for the 30-39 age group, and the NHS website states that only over-40s and younger people with certain health conditions can book their booster jab.
But there have been widespread number of social media users in their 30s being able to book their jab, and multiple checks by The Independent on Saturday evening confirmed people in their over-30s were being offered slots.
The slots were found after inputting an NHS number, a date of birth, and whether or not the person in question was “identified to have had a weakened immune system” at the time of their first and second jabs.
On the next page, the NHS website says when eligible for a jab: “You can now book an appointment. When you book, you’ll only be offered appointments for vaccines that are recommended for you. This is based on the answers you’ve given us and your vaccination record. When you attend your appointment, the staff will ask you further screening questions to ensure you get a recommended vaccine.”
The Independent found that appointments for third jabs were available as soon as Sunday.
Availability varied depending on the geographical area searched and whether or not the person booking has an access need – such as a step-free entrance, sign language, and parking for people with disabilities.
A number of people on social media have posted that they were able to book their third jabs, also noting that the government has yet to announce the inclusion of their age group.
An NHS spokesperson told The Independent its IT system had “started a little earlier in the day to get ready” for Monday’s launch.
Some people on Twitter reported that all over-18s could book their jabs now, but tests byThe Independent were unable to replicate this.
The government’s drive to further vaccinate more people comes as its scientific advisers warned that tougher Covid restrictions may be needed to prevent the omicron variant becoming more widespread.
The omicron variant is thought to be more transmissible than the preceding delta variant, however omicron symptoms have so far been reported by doctors to be milder in comparison.
But experts have urged caution until more facts about the newest variant are established.
The government’s scientific advisers have warned that the could be between 25,000 – in the “best case scenario” – to 75,000 deaths –in the “worst case scenario – in England over the next five months if there are no further restrictions imposed on Brits.
The experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who also sit on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) or the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), predicted a large wave of infections in January.
Dr Rosanna Barnard, who co-led the research that developed the modelling, said: “Mask wearing, social distancing and booster jabs are vital, but may not be enough.”
But, in response to the warnings, the government said that vaccines and boosters continue to be the “best line of defence” against the virus.
A government spokesperson said: “We continue to look closely at all of the emerging data.
“We’ve been clear throughout that vital vaccines and boosters are our best line of defence against this virus and that is why we are urging people to come forward as quickly as possible as they become eligible.
“Plan B remains a proportionate response based upon what we know, so we encourage everyone to follow the rules by wearing a face covering, working from home if you can, testing regularly and coming forward for your booster when called.”