If not for his job, Const. Tejpal Virk of the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) would have no idea when he would get vaccinated against COVID-19.
As a front-line police officer, he’s had suspects tell him they’re infected with the novel coronavirus. His mask has been ripped off his face. He’s had to quarantine three times.
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“We deal with a lot of people on a daily basis,” Virk said.
“That’s our job to be out there in the community and deal with people every day.”
The 36-year-old officer was among the 150 front-line officers to receive a vaccine Wednesday at the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) clinic being hosted at SaskTel Centre. Another 150 SPS officers are expected to get the shot Thursday.
The vaccines are in addition to the 200 doses the clinic receives from Saskatchewan health officials every day for members of the public.
Virk views the shot as a time-saver, allowing him and his coworkers to respond quickly in urgent situations.
“If it’s something related to a domestic violence call, I need to get in there as soon as possible because I’m not sure what is happening in there, if someone needs my help immediately,” he said.
Police Chief Troy Cooper also rolled up his sleeve to get a shot.
“Even if it’s one call less that an officer has to go to unvaccinated, it’s worth it, and we really appreciate that partnership [with STC],” Cooper said.
Last week, Cooper told Global News that two SPS officers have had to self-isolate four times, seven or eight have had to isolate three times, 70 have had to isolate twice and 281 have had to isolate once.
“Our staff have to go into areas that are uncontrolled. There are things that you can’t prepare them for. You can’t protect them with PPE and policy all the time,” Cooper said.
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He said Tribal Chief Mark Arcand of STC contacted him after the Saskatchewan government granted vaccine priority to police officers last week. Rather than wait for the mobile workplace vaccination clinics to reach the service, police got in sooner at the STC clinic.
It was simply the right thing to do, according to Arcand.
“So I think getting the vaccinations for the city police is a great investment, and I think it should happen across the province as soon as possible,” Arcand said.
Regina police officers are not currently scheduled to be in clinics, according to spokesperson Elizabeth Popwich. However, a couple of weekends ago, the drive-thru service was quiet, allowing 140 members to get vaccinated.
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“Since then, we’ve sent more people, a dozen at a time, when there were opportunities,” Popowich said.
Currently, about 250 of 300 front-line police officers have been vaccinated in Regina.
Casey Ward, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers, said members wish they had vaccination dates. However, they’re happy to have prioritization and to see officers get the shot.
“We were kind of hoping more for some exact dates, so we can let our members know because there’s a lot of angst with our members out there,” Ward said.
“They want the vaccine.”
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