SASKATOON -- Vaccinations for staff working in Saskatoon's intensive care units, emergency departments and COVID-19 wards, testing and assessment centres will likely begin next week.

A new shipment of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is expected to arrive in the city as early as Monday, according to a news release from the province.

The health care workers will receive their first dose of the vaccine at Merlis Belcher Place at the University of Saskatchewan and will receive their second required dose three to four weeks later, the province said.

"Saskatchewan has been ready to receive and waiting to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine, as I said last week,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in the release.

"So it was welcome news when we learned that the first shipment would arrive before the holidays," Merriman said.

The vaccinations would mark the start of Phase 1 of the Saskatchewan government's Vaccine Delivery Plan, which is focused on immunizing those at high risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and individuals at more at risk of serious illness.

In addition to health care workers in high-risk settings, under Phase , long-term care residents, people over 80, and those over 50 in northern and remote areas will be vaccinated.

People between the ages of 70 and 79 may also be vaccinated during Phase 1 as supply allows.

Since Tuesday, 250 people have received a dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in Regina with another 301 scheduled to get their shot today, according to the province.

The vaccinations are being distributed in Regina as part of what the province has termed a "pilot," initially focused on 1,950 health care workers at the city's Pasqua and General Hospitals.

However, the province said the pilot is expanding to include frontline staff in the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, paramedics and anesthetists, with more "priority groups" under consideration.

"These additional groups have been identified given they are also at higher-risk of contracting COVID-19, and because of their work with at-risk patients," Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said in the release.

"Of course, our supplies are limited, so we will look to continue providing additional doses to these groups as more vaccine is received."

With Health Canada approval for a second vaccine, from Moderna, appearing imminent, the province said a shipment of that vaccine could arrive in Saskatchewan later this month.

Unlike Pfizer's vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage, the Moderna vaccine can be stored in regular temperature freezers, making it easier to distribute in smaller rural communities.

The province is still anticipating that Phase 2 — immunization of the general population — will tentatively begin in April.