OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland Zoo vaccinated tigers, Black bears, Grizzly bears, mountain lions and ferrets against COVID-19 this week and is poised to innoculate chimpanzees, fruit bats and pigs.
It's part of a national effort to vaccinate 100 mammalian species, including animals at the San Diego Zoo, following confirmed cases of coronavirus in gorillas living in a safari park.
The animals are being given experimental doses of the Zoetis vaccine, said Dr. Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at Oakland Zoo. The company is donating 11,000 doses to 70 zoos across the United States.
"Up until now, we have been using public barriers at certain habitats to ensure social distancing, along with enhanced PPE worn by staff to protect our susceptible species from COVID-19," Herman said in a statement. "We’re happy and relieved to now be able to better protect our animals with this vaccine."
In a video provided by the zoo, staff poked a big Black bear with a syringe and then squirted a few shots of whipped cream down its throat as a reward.
Zoetis’ research and development team, headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has developed other uniquely formulated coronavirus vaccines for cats, dogs, poultry and cattle.
Oakland Zoo staff vaccinate a ferret on June 29, 2021 against COVID-19.
Although the virus – or antigen – is the same as in human vaccines, vaccines for animals vary based on the carrier – or adjuvant – that is used.
"When the first dog was infected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong last year, we immediately began to work on a vaccine that could be used in domestic animals," said Mahesh Kumar, senior vice president of global biologics at Zoetis. "More than ever before, the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the important connection between animal health and human health, and we continue to monitor for emerging infectious diseases that can impact animals as well as people."
Animals including Asiatic lions in India and a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City have tested positive for COVID-19, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it does not yet know if all animals can get infected.
A new study has found that a surprisingly high number of dogs and cats may be getting infected with COVID-19, according to new research to be presented next week at the European Congress of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. However, there no known cases of pet-to-human transmission, although it would have been difficult to detect while the virus spread easily between humans, researchers reported.
In May, several Russian regions started vaccinating animals against COVID-19 at veterinary clinics.