Vaccination of animals against coronavirus has begun in the Oakland Zoo in California. First of all, they vaccinate mammals, which, according to experts, are in an increased risk group. So, tigers, cougars, grizzly bears, black bears, and ferrets have already received the first dose of the drug. Primates, pigs, and bats are next in line. According to the zoo’s management, earlier they had already increased the distance between visitors and animals in the enclosures, and employees wore personal protective equipment. “Now we will be even better able to keep the animals safe from the risk of coronavirus thanks to the vaccine,” claims Alex Herman, deputy head of the zoo’s veterinary service.
The Oakland Zoo is just one of several dozen institutions in the United States that deal with mammals that are starting to vaccinate animals. In all, about seventy zoos belonging to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and several dozen protected areas, as well as academic and government agencies, are participating in the project.
The experimental coronavirus vaccine for animals was developed by a leading U.S. veterinary pharmaceutical company. The company has donated 11,000 doses of the drug to various zoos and organizations. Interestingly, the same firm also created experimental PCR tests for animals.
That said, it remains unclear how susceptible mammals are to the coronavirus and whether they can spread it. The first known case was the infection of a tiger at the Bronx Zoo, New York, in the spring of 2020, as well as eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo. The animals recovered after a minor ailment. As for pets, especially cats, there have been isolated cases (the first cat with coronavirus was found in the United Kingdom in July 2020), but according to Christine Middlemiss, chief veterinarian of the United Kingdom, “the detection of the virus in pets is a very rare event.”
The problem of mink is a separate one – millions of them have been destroyed on farms in Denmark, for example, on suspicion that they are hardy carriers of the coronavirus and can transmit it to humans. However, there is no consensus among experts around the world on the need to vaccinate animals. Most believe that vaccination is required only in isolated cases, for example for gorillas because of their small numbers, and possibly for minks if it is proven that the coronavirus does indeed affect them more than other mammals.