SA Zoo will soon vaccinate animals against COVID-19

SAN ANTONIO- The San Antonio Zoo (SA Zoo) will soon vaccinate some animal species over the next couple of weeksto protect the animals in their care.

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a question as to whether animals could contract the COVID-19 virus. It was proven that they could indeed, as cases within zoos begin to emerge.

In April 2020, the Bronx Zoo recorded that some tigers and lions tested positive for the virus, then a gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

In June 2021, two lions perished at India’s Valandur Zoo after contracting the virus and ten others continue to be treated for it.

“In zoos, we have seen cases in lions, tigers, and gorillas mostly,” said Dr. Rob Coke, senior director of veterinary care at the SA Zoo. “As stewards of conservation, I feel that it is our duty to do everything that we can to protect these endangered species in our care.”

The SA Zoo plans to begin the vaccinations after the animals have undergone training. Their animal care staff has been working with the animals using positive training plans for them to present themselves along the training wall for voluntary vaccine injections.

Dr. Coke said the current recommendation for the animal-based vaccine from Zoetis (the animal health division of Pfizer) is two doses, three weeks apart. This is similar to the human vaccine schedule, and it is currently unknown about additional booster vaccines.

The first species scheduled for the vaccine
will most likely be the larger felines such as lions and tigers. Primates will likely come next.

Dr. Coke said there is no significance to the order other than coordinating the animal care staff and their schedules.

Humans are still at the greatest risk of infection compared to other species.

“The species listed above ([felines and primates]) are just the start of what we know,” Coke said. “The good news is that these animals have mild clinical signs and recover.”

As time goes on, they hope to learn more about the virus in humans and animals and additional ways to fight and prevent it.

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