'Thank you sister!' Desmond and Leah Tutu kick off Covid-19 jab for the aged

17 May 2021 - 18:21 By sipokazi fokazi
Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah were among Western Cape senior citizens who were vaccinated on Monday. With them are Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo.
Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah were among Western Cape senior citizens who were vaccinated on Monday. With them are Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah were among the first elderly people to be inoculated as the Western Cape started its second phase of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

“I hope so!” Those were the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu when asked by a nurse at Brooklyn Chest Hospital in Milnerton on Monday if he was ready for the Covid-19 vaccination.

After several pre-vaccination questions which he asked the nurse to repeat, joking that he couldn’t hear as he was an old man, the 89-year-old gracefully had his first shot of the vaccine without flinching as the long needle went into his right upper arm. “Thank you sister!” he said as the nurse plastered the injection site.

Tutu and his wife Leah were among a handful of elderly people inoculated at the hospital as the Western Cape kick-started its second phase of the vaccine rollout. Premier Alan Winde, who officially launched the second phase, said “hope makes a comeback”, after a pandemic that has taken so much from so many people, including lives lost.

“Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken away so much from so many people across our province. There are many families in the Western Cape who have had to mourn the death of someone they love. There are many more families who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from because their breadwinner has lost their job. During this time, there has not been much to be hopeful about, and to look forward to. It has been a time of great pain and loss,” he said.

Winde commended “our beloved Arch who is once again leading from the front” and said in the next few weeks, as part of scaling up Covid-19 vaccinations, more vaccination sites would come online including in rural areas, for those who had registered.

“Our beloved Arch has led from the front throughout his life, never afraid to stand up to a challenge, or to take on a tyrant or a bully. Today, he does so yet again by helping send a strong message to the people of South Africa and indeed the world that vaccines work, that they are safe and that they save lives. We draw on your courage and inspiration, as we embark on what will be the biggest operation this country has ever seen,” he said.

Winde encouraged all residents who are eligible under the second phase to register as soon as possible.

Desmond Tutu gives thumbs up after he took his Covid-19 shot.
Desmond Tutu gives thumbs up after he took his Covid-19 shot.
Image: Esa Alexander

Piyushi Kotecha, CEO of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, said, "We’re relieved that the Arch and Mrs Tutu have now been vaccinated against Covid-19 and support the call for all eligible citizens in the age of 60 who have not yet signed up for the jab to do so urgently.

“Vaccination is the only safe way for countries to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission that has ravaged families, societies and economies across the world. Without it, we cannot get back to normal life again. To achieve mass immunity, we need everyone to get vaccinated. If even one person is left out of access to vaccines, the whole world stays at risk,” she said.

Among the few elderly people who marked the launch was 73-year Chris and his wife Roxanne Mouton, 66, from Vredehoek. The couple were ‘very optimistic’ about the vaccination programme and considered themselves lucky to be the first members of the general population to be vaccinated. “Do you know how lucky we are? We are very lucky ... there are still millions waiting for the opportunity ... that means we are very, very lucky,” they said.

Verna Andrews, 70, from Kensington was “excited and proud that I can do this for all our senior citizens".

“They must know that we all have to be vaccinated so that we can be safe and go out and be with our loved ones and families as normal, but not forgetting that we must still sanitise and wear our masks.” 

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