- Police officers are excited to finally get their chance to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
- Two officers from Gauteng were the first to get the jab on Monday.
- The police sector aims to vaccinate more than 180 000 officers across the country.
Hundreds of police officers gathered at the Orlando Stadium on Monday morning, but this time it was not for crowd management or crime prevention but rather to finally get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Sergeant Natasha Govender and Constable Tebogo Rafapa were the first female and male officer to get the vaccine as the sector launched its vaccination drive.
Govender is attached to the Eldorado Park police station while Rafapa is in the Crime Prevention Unit of Diepsloot.
The two followed Police Minister Bheki Cele and national commissioner Khehla Sitole for their jab.
Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane also attended the launch, which saw the leadership of police unions also getting vaccinated.
Speaking after being observed for 20 minutes, the officers said they were excited and happy their moment had finally arrived.
They felt no pain or side-effects and both emphasised it was important for every officer to take the vaccine to protect themselves from contracting the virus.
"It's been a struggle; you [found] that you get to work and you get informed that one of your colleagues is laying in hospital. It is kind of demoralising but you still [had] to pick yourself up and get to work," Rafapa said.
He added although the police provided them with all the necessary personal protective equipment, and their vehicles were constantly cleaned and sanitised before they used them, they were still at risk of contracting the virus because of the people they dealt with.
Rafapa said he was hopeful the vaccine would make a difference and protect officers.
"We work with different kinds of people on a daily basis and some we don't know their [Covid-19] statuses.
"We also do stop and searches and get into contact with a lot of people and so it is a must that we wear gloves, sanitise and make sure that people are wearing masks and are social distancing.
He added although he had been lucky not to contract Covid-19, he had tested for it after someone who was positive visited their station.
Police stations closing
Govender said her station in Eldorado Park had closed on many occasions because many of her fellow officers had been infected.
Govender said although she had not yet contracted the virus, the fear and anxiety of testing and then waiting for results were traumatising.
Sad about members who succumbed to Covid-19
The sector plans to vaccinate more than 180 000 officers at 108 sites across the country.
It will officially kick-off the programme on 8 July in all provinces.
Speaking before taking his vaccine, Cele said 900 officers would get their jabs at the launch.
He added while they were happy the programme had finally reached them, it was, however, sad moment especially after losing 672 officers to the virus.
"I guess it is one beautiful morning for us as the SAPS family. We are really elated. We have been looking forward to this day; we have been trying to reach this day. It has been a long walk to be here, especially from the family of SAPS. As you know that we are always there when there."
Cele said 30 000 of the 32 500 officers that had been infected with the virus had recovered.
Sitole said it was important for police officers to be healthy in order to do their work.
He urged officers to support the programme and assist the country in its fight against the virus.
Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the Department of Health would soon announce the dates for metro police and correctional services officials to have their turn.