New England zoos start vaccinating animals against COVID-19

Staff at New England zoos in the northeastern United States have begun vaccinating animals susceptible to COVID-19 infection. Despite no cases at Franklin Park and Stone, veterinarians decided to vaccinate the animals with Zoetis as a preventative, according to the zoos’ website Sept. 22.

“This vaccine is an important preventative measure to protect species susceptible to contracting the virus. While we do not anticipate any adverse reactions to the vaccine and no adverse reactions have been reported from other zoos, we will closely monitor for any signs of animal reaction to the vaccine,” said Dr. Chris Bonar, senior veterinarian with the New England Zoo Animal Health Department.

The animal vaccine was developed by Zoetis, which has donated more than 11,000 doses of the drug to more than 100 species of mammals in nearly 70 zoos and other animal care facilities in the United States. The zoo application of the vaccine was authorized by the Department of Agriculture after reviewing the case of each potentially vulnerable animal to the virus.

The New England Zoo contains the species most at risk of infection, including primates, felines (lions, tigers and snow leopards) and felines (ferrets and North American river otters). These will receive the vaccine first. Like the vaccine developed for humans, the animal Zoetis is in two doses and administered about four weeks apart. Zoo officials estimate that it would take three to four months to fully vaccinate all at-risk species at Franklin Park and Stone.