The Ministry of Health has begun the rollout of vaccines in New Zealand prisons, with Whanganui Prison the first in line to have a portion of prisoners in its care fully vaccinated.
The Whanganui District Health Board regional vaccine rollout team visited the prison earlier this month to administer around 250 doses, 78 of which went to prisoners.
Staff were offered the vaccine first, followed by a number of vulnerable low-security prisoners, who were vaccinated by Corrections' own health staff.
Everyone under the care of Corrections is included within vaccination rollout Group 3, alongside frontline healthcare workers, people living in long-term residential care such as rest homes, and older Māori or Pacific people in the care of whānau.
Corrections staff are Group 2.
The Ministry of Health says prisons are particularly susceptible to the threat of an outbreak of Covid-19, which is why the Government included prisons near the top of the list of vaccine priority.
Whanganui Prison health centre manager Bridgit Carver-Vitens said the vaccination rollout at the prison had gone well.
"It was pleasing to be the first prison to get vaccinations, and we appreciate the help of the Whanganui rollout team who made it look seamless," Carver-Vitens said.
"It was a lesson in teamwork – a combination of people willing to train and work together."
Whanganui Prison director Reti Pearse said the rollout at the prison proved a good lesson for what mass vaccinations would look like at other prisons across the country.
"We learnt some valuable lessons through the rollout at Whanganui Prison which will be applied as Corrections prepares to vaccinate the rest of our staff and the prison population," he said.
The Whanganui regional vaccination team will return to the prison next week to administer the second dose of the vaccine.
So far, more than 5200 people have received their first dose of the vaccine within the Whanganui DHB area, equivalent to almost 10 per cent of all people aged 16 and over.
The Whanganui DHB is far outstripping its targets for vaccinations, currently sitting almost 1500 doses ahead of schedule, according to Ministry of Health data.