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Zoo Animals To Get COVID-19 Vaccine

A tiger is mostly submerged in water, though its head is dry and it's staring directly into the camera.
Zoo Boise
A company called Zoetis is donating COVID-19 vaccine doses to zoos, sanctuaries, and conservatories around the country to help animals that are susceptible to the virus.

Humans aren’t the only mammals that can contract COVID-19. That’s why a company called Zoetis is donating more than 11,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to zoos, sanctuaries and conservatories around the U.S.

The vaccines they’re providing aren’t the same as human vaccines and were made specifically for animals. Creators at Zoetis said they started working on their vaccine after reports of dogs getting the virus. Now, however, they’ve pivoted to animals that are more susceptible, such as large cats and apes.

“While thankfully a COVID-19 vaccine is not needed in pets or livestock at this time, we are proud that our work can help zoo animals at risk of COVID-19,” Mahesh Kumar, Senior Vice President at Zoetis, said in a statement.

Much like the emergency use authorization for humans, federal agencies have approved limited use for Zoetis’ vaccine.

The Denver Zoo is one of nearly 70 locations across the U.S. that are getting the company’s donated doses.

“Our great apes, our big cats, and then in general, our primates and carnivores will be the main groups we will be targeting initially for vaccination,” said Dr. Scott Larsen, vice president for animal health at the zoo.

That’s because those are the groups that are susceptible to the virus.

Larsen said similarly to human vaccines, they’ll administer the virus in two doses over several weeks. He also said they’ll monitor for any side effects and might give doses to other animals, such as lesser anteaters and hooved animals, down the road.

Zoetis could not provide a complete list of zoos they will be working with, but did say that the initial 11,000 doses won’t meet demand, and they’ll likely donate more shots in the future.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.