PRISON officers are still waiting to get vaccinated even as COVID-19 case numbers begin to seriously test their efforts to keep NSW's jails virus-free - including the facility west of Kempsey - with the union calling on Justice Health to reinstate the on-site vaccination rollout.
The Public Service Association said another round of workplace vaccinations for prison officers is urgently needed to make sure there isn't mass spread inside any prison.
The union argues regional prisons such as the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre at Aldavilla are particularly vulnerable.
"Prison is up there ... as a super spreading environment - once it gets in to the main population you're in real trouble," PSA president Nicole Jess said.
"But it is preventable - we need jabs in prisons now, it's simple as that."
While prison officers who had received their first dose were still able to get the second dose at work, those who had missed out in the first round were now being instructed to go to their GP or through a State-run hub.
However, many prison officers, particularly those in regional NSW including Dubbo and Bathurst, were telling the union they couldn't readily access the vaccine, despite being eligible as part of the phase 1b group.
The union said requests to NSW Health for another round of workplace vaccinations inside the jail had been rebuffed, as doses in regional NSW were now being prioritised for Sydney.
In-person visits to the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre and al other State prisons were suspended from June 24 on the back of the growing cluster of COVID cases in the Sydney Metropolitan area.
Video visits continue to be available.
The union said while ongoing lockdown and rigorous isolation measures had managed to keep the prisons largely free COVID-19 they had also contributed to significant tensions within the inmate population.
"For 20 months prison officers have been working in tense jails, where people really are on a hair trigger.
"Prison officers want to be vaccinated, and for the stability of our corrections systems they need to be vaccinated, urgently.
"Effectively the Government is telling them they've had their chance and now it's on to them to sort it out. But it was the Government's changing advice that caused delays in the first place.
"An ongoing COVID-19 vaccine rollout throughout the prison system must be a priority - particularly in regional NSW, where prisons are the largest employer."
Meanwhile, Deputy Premier John Barilaro says he has confidence that an increase in penalties for breaches of the health orders will be enough to protect regional communities.
Last week, harsher penalties were announced for people flouting the rules to enter regional NSW without a legitimate excuse.
People in Greater Sydney wishing to travel to regional NSW for one of the accepted reasons must have a permit.
Police can, on the spot, issue $5000 fines for lying on a permit, and $3000 fines for breaching rules around entry into the regions, including the Mid North Coast.
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