WINNIPEG -- In a surprise announcement made Thursday evening, Manitoba's health minister said the province will be moving forward with two 'critical expansions' to vaccine eligibility.

During a public telephone town hall Thursday evening, Heather Stefanson said the current vaccine eligibility will be expanded to include two groups.

"First we will expand eligibility criteria to include frontline responders, including police officers and firefighters," she said, adding the National Advisory Committee on Immunization included first responders as a vaccine priority.

The province said further information on when police officers and firefighters can book an appointment will be released next week.


"In addition we will be launching a targeted expansion to include all people age 18 and over in specific geographic areas that are disproportionally impacted by COVID-19," Stefanson said.

She said certain public-facing roles in these geographical areas – which she called 'hotspots' – will also be included in the vaccine eligibility expansion.

In a release following the town hall, the province said these public-facing roles may include teachers.

"We want to try to keep this third wave as small as possible. We also really want to respond to where we are seeing transmission right now," Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's Vaccine Implementation Task Force said during the town hall.

"That is why we are focussing on the folks who are living or working in geographies where transmission is going up substantially, because our hope is that if we can get the vaccine into those areas quickly, that we have a chance at decreasing the peak overall of this third wave."

She said more details – including which specific geographic areas will be included in the eligibility – will be provided about the new eligibility expansions during a vaccine news conference on Wednesday, April 21.

The province said vaccine eligibility will also be expanded to include frontline essential workers who cannot work virtually. No further information was provided on who this will include, but the province said more specific details will be released next week.