WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government is booking appointments for its first round of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations.

As chosen by Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, the first group to get the vaccine is health-care workers whose work involves direct contact with patients and fall under one of these criteria:

• work in critical care units, born on or before Dec. 31, 1970

• work in acute care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1960

• work in long term care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1960

• be assigned to COVID-19 immunization clinics

The province said this priority group is larger than the 900 doses that will initially be available to Manitoba.

It said appointments will be booked in the order of calls received with additional dates added to immunize this priority group as soon as possible, based on the next deliveries of the vaccine.

The province is planning to have an immunization clinic up and running on Wednesday.

Health-care workers who get the vaccine will also book an appointment for their second dose of the vaccine and receive an automated reminder by text.

"By protecting Manitoba's health care workers, we are helping to protect our entire health care system and the patients they care for," said Premier Brian Pallister in a news release.

"We know it will take time for every Manitoban to be immunized, but we are ready to make that happen as quickly and safely as possible."

The province said more information about additional clinics will be provided as soon as possible and will be based on deliveries of vaccine to the province.

Jason Kindrachuk, a Manitoba-based virologist, agrees that health-care workers should be first in line for the vaccine.

"Health-care workers are not a continually renewable resource. We need to appreciate that, so to me, it's about that idea of protecting the first line of defence that we have," said Kindrachuk.

Even with the vaccine, Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist, claims people still need to follow public health rules.

"So even the first person that was inoculated or received that first shot would not consider themselves fully protected for four weeks, so everybody needs to remember this is not going to take away from masks, social distancing for a very long time including of whom who have received the vaccine," Carr said.

As COVID-19 case numbers remain high in the province, Kindrachuk stresses Manitobans need to stay careful.

"We need to be very conscious of the things that we are doing as individuals that are leading to increased transmission," he said. "I look at the fact we had another 18 people that died over the last 24 hours in Manitoba, that to me is concerning, all those people their families will forever be scarred by what's happened."