OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Humans aren’t the only ones at risk of catching COVID-19. Cats, dogs and other species can get the deadly virus. Now, the Oakland Zoo is vaccinating some of its animals with an experimental coronavirus vaccine that will eventually be distributed to dozens of zoos nationwide.
The vaccine was donated by Zoetis, a veterinary support company with a vaccine research division in Michigan. It has been uniquely formulated for animals.READ MORE: VIDEO: Wind-Whipped Dixie Fire Ignites Homes In Greenville; Fire Crews 'Going Into Life Threat Mode'
When the first shipment of doses arrived on Monday, the zoo quickly assembled their veterinary and animal care teams and began vaccinating their highest at-risk animals the next morning.
Tigers, bears, mountain lions and ferrets have already received the first of two doses. The zoo plans to continue administering vaccinations to primates — including chimpanzees — fruit bats and pigs.
“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,” said Oakland Zoo VP of Veterinary Services Dr. Alex Herman. “We’re happy and relieved to now be able to better protect our animals with this vaccine, and are very thankful to Zoetis for not only creating it, but for donating it to us and dozens of other AZA-accredited zoos across the U.S.”READ MORE: PG&E Stock Dip Impacting Fortunes of Past Wildfire Victims
Last February, eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive for COVID. The zoo began administering an experimental vaccine, and reported that all the apes recovered. Zoo officials there believe the gorillas may have been infected by selfie-taking tourists.
The Zoetis COVID-19 vaccine is uniquely formulated for animal species. The Michigan-based company is donating more than 11,000 doses to zoos, conservatories, sanctuaries and other organizations in 27 states.
“Zoetis has a long history of supporting zoo veterinarians and the animals in their care,” said Zoetis Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike McFarland in a press release. “We are proud that our innovative research and development work and vaccine donations can help veterinary professionals within the zoo community continue to provide a high standard of care to the primates, big cats, and many other species they care for and reduce the risk of COVID-19.”MORE NEWS: COVID: Case Surge From Delta Variant Leading to Health Care Worker Fatigue
So far, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is only authorizing the vaccine for experimental use on a case-by-case basis.