Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole both received their Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 jabs on Monday as phase two of South Africa’s vaccination roll-out campaign expanded to law enforcement.
During the launch, Cele paid tribute to 672 members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) who have lost their lives to the coronavirus.
“We wish it [vaccination for police] could have been earlier … Today, we are vaccinating 900 of us, starting with me and the commissioner. We believe this will help the family of SAPS to be able to work and be protected so that we can be able to protect other people,” Cele said.
The programme aims to vaccinate more than 180 000 police employees at 108 registered vaccination sites across the country.
It is unclear how long the vaccination programme will last, but Cele said: “We are not too many — we hope [all police will be vaccinated] in the shortest possible time.”
At the launch, acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the event was a milestone. She said the exact dates for metro police and military staff to receive their jabs would be announced in due course.
Sitole linked the current vaccination programme to the police service’s turnaround strategy, which includes building a healthy policing organisation.
“The taking of the vaccination is a demonstration for us to show to members of the South African Police Service that we invest in their health,” he said.
The nationwide roll-out campaign was recently expanded to include people 50 years and older, as well as workers in the education sector.
The department of basic education has urged all educators and staff in the sector who have not yet received their J&J jabs to visit the allocated sites to be vaccinated before the 8 July deadline.
More than 333 000 teachers and support staff have received their vaccines to date, according to a statement on Monday.
In the Northern Cape and Gauteng, there were reports of some workers refusing to be vaccinated. On Sunday the education department in the Northern Cape said only 50% of the target population had been reached.
On Friday, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi also expressed his concern, after nearly 10 000 personnel in the province refused to be vaccinated “for one reason or the other”.
“While vaccination is voluntary, the World Health Organisation encourages people … to take the life-saving jab to reduce the risk of developing the illness and its consequences,” Lesufi urged.