WINNIPEG -- The City of Winnipeg is calling for all essential workers to be added to the vaccination priority list, and that includes transit drivers.

“If you want to keep an economy moving, you need your transit. We need our transit operators vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Jay Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management for the city of Winnipeg.

The city says it is actively working with the province to get first responders and other critical service members vaccinated. Currently, paramedics and licensed medical providers have been included in the provincial rollout, leading to many Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service members being vaccinated, according to Shaw.

“It’s critically important as we see more variants of concern; the risk is increasing,” said Shaw. “I’d like to see our first responders holistically be completely covered and have our Winnipeg Police Service immediately be provided vaccines, and then I want to move on to all of our essential workers that aren’t in the first priority list.”

The call comes after the province recently warned of multiple exposures to variants of concern on Winnipeg Transit.

“We can’t be complacent anymore. We can’t just rely on luck to get us through this,” said Romeo Ignacio, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, which represents Winnipeg Transit drivers.

The union said bus drivers should get priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine since they're a critical service and worries an outbreak could potentially shut down the service. Ignacio said its members are dealing with fear and anxiety as a result of new COVID-19 variants.

“They’re very scared and concerned about their wellbeing and their families, because at the end of the day, they have to go home,” said Ignacio. “But we understand we have to keep the buses going, so we just need more protections for our operators.”

Ignacio said the union is aware of 15 positive COVID-19 cases within its members and said the mental toll has resulted in anxiety and workers going on stress leave. He said the pandemic is also responsible for some early retirements among members.

Shaw said he recognizes the challenges posed to the province when determining vaccine priorities, but said protecting critical infrastructure and the essential workers that operate them is important.