Two Massachusetts Zoos Have Started Vaccinating Animals Against COVID
Now that more and more of the human population is doing its part to get vaxxed against COVID, it's the animals' turns to get the jab.
Zoo New England shared earlier this week that its teams at Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo have started vaccinating select animals against the virus as a precaution.
"While we have not had any cases of COVID-19 with the animals at Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo, this vaccine is an important preventative health measure to protect species that are susceptible to contracting the virus," Dr. Chris Bonar, senior veterinarian in Zoo New England’s Animal Health Department said in a press release this week.
Species like the zoo's primates, felids (cats like lions, tigers and snow leopards), and mustelids (ferrets and North American river otters) are considered at the highest risk for contracting and transmitting COVID, so they're at the top of the zoo's list to get vaccinated.
So you may be thinking – What vaccine did these animals opt for? Moderna? Pfizer? The one-and-done Johnson & Johnson?
The answer: None of the above. Global animal company Zoetis actually created its own COVID vaccine specifically for animals and, so far, has donated 11 thousand doses to protect species in nearly 70 zoos and animal care facilities. Similar to the human-approved Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the Zoetis vaccine is administered in two doses about four weeks apart.
"We are deeply committed to providing exceptional care to all of the animals residing at our zoos," Bonar said. "While we do not expect any adverse reactions to the vaccine, nor have any been reported from other zoos, we will be monitoring all of the animals closely for any signs of a vaccine reaction."
Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo are some of the first animal care facilities in New England to vaccinate their animals against the COVID virus, but others, including one zoo close to the SouthCoast, are hoping to start the process in the next few months.
"We are on a waiting list for the company who makes the vaccine, so we hope to be able to vaccinate later this fall," the lead veterinarian at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence said. "Timing will be dependent on when the vaccine is available."
Buttonwood Park Zoo's Zoo Director Keith Lovett said the New Bedford zoo isn't quite in talks to get the vaccine yet, mainly because the zoo isn't home to many species deemed high-priority.
"Priority species are great apes and large felids which we do not have at BPZOO," Lovett said. "We will evaluate in the future as the vaccines are proven effective on a greater range of species."