Whanganui's largest Covid-19 vaccination centre has welcomed its first batch of patients, with the Whanganui District Health Board urging those eligible to book in as soon as possible.
Te Rito, the Whanganui Wellness and Vaccination Centre, was blessed and opened on Wednesday morning, with eligible locals in Group 3 making the most of the new facility.
Group 3 comprises those aged 65 or over; people with relevant underlying health conditions; Māori and Pasifika aged 50 and over; and the disabled. Several thousand people within the Whanganui DHB's region fall into the category.
Based in the former Warehouse Stationery building in Victoria Ave, the centre will be the largest vaccination centre in the region for the Whanganui DHB's vaccine rollout programme.
Te Rito senior responsible officer Louise Allsopp said the location of the centre ticked a lot of boxes.
"It's a blank canvas. We were looking for easy access for our people. There is a bus route along Ridgway St plus there is reasonable parking around, as well as 10 parks for those with mobility issues attached to the building. We wanted a place that was easily accessible to the bulk of the community."
On opening day 190 people were booked in for their first dose of the vaccine.
"We're full for the first day. We have had plenty of people walking through over the last few days," Allsopp said.
The facility will also be used for health promotions and health screening, as well as other DHB initiatives.
"We are going to have all of our clinical staff here. So people who, for example, haven't been to the doctor in two years or something like that can take the opportunity to do a bit more of a check-up if they want to. We want it to be more of a wellness centre rather than a Covid centre."
In addition to the Victoria Ave centre, the Whanganui DHB will open suburban clinics in Whanganui East and Castlecliff, as well as at GP practices and Te Oranganui Medical Centre Te Waipuna.
Allsopp encouraged those in Group 3 to book in as soon as possible, because when the rollout reaches Group 4, the centre would be "hectic".
"We are also planning to vaccinate in schools for 16 to 18-year-olds," she said.
People in Group 3 can phone 0800 888 479 or email the Whanganui District Health Board at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.
"This is a short-term system. At the end of June, a national booking development will be ready. But that won't be in Whanganui until then," Allsopp said.
"We are just so grateful for this opportunity. Just last year we were fighting the unseen, and now we are looking into the future. Just encouraging people to take the opportunity when it is time."