COVID-19 cases and vaccinations in humans have, understandably, garnered extensive attention in the media and online—but what about our furry friends?
Over the past six weeks, staff at the Cincinnati Zoo have worked diligently to administer two doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 80 of the facility’s animals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of animals spreading the virus to humans is low. However, the opposite scenario—in which a human infects an animal—has been observed in some cases. Specifically, animals are more likely to catch the virus in environments like zoos, where they live in close proximity to potentially infected humans.
Additionally, the agency said, “we don’t yet know all of the animals that can get infected”—meaning that protection is paramount.
In a Monday press release, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden described the preparations involved in vaccinating dozens of animals.
The zoo’s director of animal health Dr. Mark Campbell said, “We have three technicians (Amy Long, Jenny Kroll, and Janell Duvall), and they have their hands full with their regular routines and workloads.”
“Adding the task of vaccinating dozens of animals … to their plates was a big request,” he explained. “Not surprisingly, they rolled up their sleeves and got busy, working quickly to ensure that each multi-dose vaccine container was used within 24 hours of opening and kept at the desired temperature at all times.”
Before the veterinary vaccines arrived at the site, zoo staff worked for months with the animals to prepare them for their shots. Their efforts were successful, as most animals were able to tolerate their vaccinations without anesthesia.
“We usually have a year for the animals that receive flu shots and other routine annual vaccinations to forget about the sting, but the second COVID shots had to be given within three weeks of the first,” Dr. Campbell said in the media release. “We were concerned that the fresh memory of the first injection would make animals less willing to offer a shoulder or thigh for the second round, but they did! That success is 100% due to the strong relationships these animals have with care staff and our animal health team.”
So far, the zoo’s “big cats, great apes (gorillas, bonobos, orangutans), red pandas, goats, giraffe, river otters, skunks, bearcats and domestic dogs and cats” have received at least one dose of the vaccine. As of this week, second doses remain in progress.
The zoo added that, as of Monday, none of the animals had exhibited adverse reactions to the vaccine.
The Cincinnati Zoo is far from the only one of its kind to start administering vaccine doses to animals. Just last week, for example, the National Zoo announced that eleven animals had received their first dose, reported Washingtonian.