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Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says 900 health-care workers will be the first in the province to receive a COVID-19 vaccine after doses start to arrive as early as next week.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

Some 900 health-care workers will be the first in Manitoba to receive a COVID-19 vaccine after doses start to arrive in the province as early as next week, Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday.

The workers in four critical care units will be followed by other health-care staff, seniors and Indigenous people as more batches of the vaccine come.

“Soon, I am pleased to say, we will start delivering life-saving vaccinations to protect those Manitobans most at risk of this deadly virus,” Pallister said.

“However, there is only a very limited supply of these new vaccines and, very likely, there will only be a very limited supply of these vaccines available before the spring.”

Manitoba is still working out the logistics of how to distribute the vaccine, approved by Health Canada and developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizerand German partner BioNTech.

The province hopes to vaccinate more than 100,000 people by March, which is roughly seven per cent of the population. Clinics are planned for Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson and other communities.

The government is also going to look for ways to encourage people to get vaccinated. Well over 60 per cent of the population would need to get the vaccine to see some effect of herd immunity, said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer.

Pallister indicated a willingness to look at an idea floated Tuesday by the Ontario government that could bar people who didn’t get inoculated from large public places such as theatres.

“I’m not sure that’s an issue that’s yet being examined … but it’s now been added to the list. It’s a perfectly legitimate question,” Pallister said.

“We are going to be looking at ways – and we are studying this now – how to encourage people to help us develop that so-called herd immunity here in Manitoba.”

Health officials reported 279 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 18 deaths. The daily case count has started to drop since tight restrictions on public gatherings and business openings were introduced in November.

The province announced earlier this week that most of the restrictions will continue into early January, including a ban on gatherings of more than five people.

“Our case numbers are still too high,” Roussin said Wednesday.

“We need to decrease the number of contacts we have and the best way to do that is to stay home as much as possible.”

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