EDMONTON -- Standing in front of a freezer where some of the COVID-19 vaccines will be stored when they arrive in Alberta Tuesday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said another 25,000 doses will be shipped next week.

Nearly 4,000 health-care workers in Edmonton and Calgary will begin to be vaccinated on Wednesday, a week after Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“We chose these cities because that’s where these cases numbers are the highest and their health system is facing the greatest challenge in terms of capacity, and we’re going to the give the system some real help in terms of dealing with those challenges,” Shandro said.

The health minister also announced the province will receive another 25,350 doses next week to be given to as many acute care workers.

“We don’t have to hold back any of that portion for the second dose. We’re going to give the first dose of vaccine to 29,000 health-care professionals by the end of December.”

Continuing care residents are not part of the first round of vaccinations because Pfizer requires the province to administer the first 29,000 doses at the sites of delivery.

But Shandro said Alberta expects to receive a “significant amount” of Moderna doses later this month. The Moderna vaccine, which has not been approved yet, does not need to be stored in ultra-cold freezers and can be taken to continuing care facilities.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw called the vaccine “good news and a little bit of hope at a difficult time.”

“By immunizing health-care workers first, we will also reduce one of the biggest stressers on our acute care health system today: staffing shortages.

“This earlier vaccination of our health-care staff will help protect both these workers and our system.”

Hinshaw, who reported a daily record of 1,887 cases of COVID-19 and 15 more deaths Monday, said it will take months to get to widespread protection because vaccine demand is high and two doses are required for it to be effective.

“The steps we’re taking now to slow the spread and bend the spread are still critical. For the time being, we remain each other’s vaccine and best defence,” she said.

After health-care workers, Phase 1 will give priority to long-term care residents, seniors over 75 and First Nations on reserve, and Inuit and Metis on settlement aged 65 or older, the government said.

Phase 2 is still expected to start in April but its priority groups have not been decided, while Phase 3 will include the general population later in 2021.