Zoo Animals Receive Experimental Coronavirus Vaccines


The Oakland Zoo in California started this week with bears, mountain lions, tigers and ferrets, the first of nearly 100 animals preparing to receive an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus over the summer.

Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, is donating 11,000 doses of the vaccine to nearly 70 zoos in 27 U.S. states, as well as sanctuaries, universities, and other animal sanctuaries, and Oakland Zoo is one of the first beneficiaries. The vaccine is for animals only, goes through a different approval process than humans, and cannot be used to protect humans.

Oakland Zoo vice president of veterinary services, Dr. “It means a lot more safety for our beautiful animals,” said Alex Herman. “Our first animals to be vaccinated at the zoo were two of our beautiful old tigers.”

The Oakland Zoo has not had any cases of animals infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid in humans. However, saying that the zoo took extraordinary measures, Dr. Herman mandated that keepers maintain a safe distance from animals and use protective equipment.

However, other vulnerable animals such as big cats and gorillas have been infected in zoos in the United States and elsewhere. In February, the San Diego Zoo vaccinated the monkeys with the Zoetis vaccine, first tested on mink.

The New Jersey-based company has provided the same experimental vaccine to mink farmers in Oregon after the state decided this spring that all farmed mink should be vaccinated. According to Christina Lood, Zoetis’ senior communications director, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the vaccine for experimental use “on a case-by-case basis.”

Vaccine donation is the latest advance in the patchwork response to virus-infected animals.

From the beginning of the pandemic, pet owners, zookeepers, fur farmers and scientists all had their own specific concerns about animal infections. While pet owners worry about the health of their beloved cats and dogs, epidemiologists and public health officials have warned that some animal species, domestic or wild, could become a reservoir where the virus can live and mutate even as the world tries to eradicate it. in humans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not evaluated any vaccine candidates for cats or dogs, and veterinarians have consistently stated that there is no evidence that pets transmit the virus to humans. The virus did passing from farm mink to humans.

But scientists continue to find that both cats and dogs can contract the virus from their owners. Cats are more susceptible, and while most have mild symptoms, a few studies have reported cats with severe symptoms. a cat England had to be euthanized.

A veterinarian and immunologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Dr. Dorothee Bienzle recently completed a study of cats and dogs living in homes with people with Covid and found several cases of cats with severe symptoms. But he said that in order to pin the symptoms conclusively on the coronavirus, all other diseases must be ruled out; This was not possible in his study, which depended on blood samples and the owner’s description of the symptoms.

D., a veterinarian and pathologist at the veterinary school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Karen Terio echoed this sentiment, saying, “I’ve heard of cats with severe clinical signs, but I haven’t seen any cases where they can confirm this.” the signs were due to SARS-CoV-2.”

At the last online meeting European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Bienzle presented preliminary results of the research he and his colleagues had conducted.

First, they tested cats and dogs in homes where people had tested positive for the coronavirus. Dr. “We targeted a population that was likely to be positive,” Bienzle said.

As expected, they found that more cats than dogs tested positive, 67 percent compared to 43 percent. In addition, time spent with their owners, especially sleeping in the same bed, increased the chances of getting an infection in cats. For dogs, this was not true.

The researchers then tested cats admitted to shelters and cats brought to low-cost clinics for neutering. These cats, which are not known to live with infected humans, had a fairly low incidence of infection, with a 9 percent incidence of cats in shelters and only 3 percent in cats brought to the clinic.

Dr. Bienzle said the advice given to pet owners remained consistent throughout the pandemic. If you have Covid, you should isolate from your pets the same way you would from a human. Neither the United States nor Canada support vaccinating pets. Bienzle said that with social distancing and masks, transmission from humans to animals can be prevented.

Researchers at the shelters and those working with vulnerable species such as bats took stricter measures to protect the animals from infection.

The question for zoos is not whether to vaccinate, but how to approach the patient when there is a tiger. Dr. “With lots of positive reinforcement,” Herman said. The zoo trains its animals by giving them rewards for voluntarily offering themselves to be poked. It’s pretty much the same idea as getting a lollipop after a shot, although animals may seem more willing to volunteer than humans.

Dr. “The tiger is leaning against the fence,” Herman said. “The thousand-pound grizzly bear is leaning against the fence.”

Good tiger. Good bear.


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