WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s health minister said there is a sense of optimism as the province moves into 2021, nearly one week after the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Manitoba.

Cameron Friesen attended Monday’s COVID-19 update virtually, where he said the first COVID-19 immunizations were successful.

“We have 900 health-care workers able to book an appointment, we will have more vaccine produced and delivered to Manitoba, and more people will receive that COVID immunization,” he said. “It is remarkable, the speed at which the world has come together to produce a vaccine in record time. It is remarkable to think already in Manitoba those first frontline health-care workers have been vaccinated.”

On Sunday, Manitoba announced it would be expanding the eligibility of health-care workers who could receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Workers must have direct contact with patients and meet at least one of the following criteria:

- Work in critical care units, born on or before Dec. 31, 1980 (revised from 1970);

· Work in long-term care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1962 (revised from 1960);

· Work in acute care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1960; or

· Be assigned to COVID-19 immunization clinics.

On Monday, the province also noted they would be able to immunize more Manitobans with the initial supply received.

“Manitoba has been able to expand the number of available immunization appointments to more than 1,300 from 900 because immunizers have consistently been able to draw six doses of vaccine from each vial, instead of the expected five,” the province said in a statement.

More than 1,200 health-care workers have booked an appointment for an immunization this week, and more information on future clinics and eligibility will be released later this week.

Friesen also praised other parts of Manitoba’s COVID-19 response, including testing and contact tracing.

“We went from a five-day average of 1,900 (tests) in that first week of October, to an average of almost 3,900 on November 7, that’s incredible,” he said.

Friesen added the province has also worked to have results for COVID-19 tests turned around in 48 hours, but added the province is “regularly” getting results back to residents in 24 hours or less. The province also launched a text message service last week to let Manitobans know when their results are available.