US Zoo Vaccinating Gorillas and Orangutans Against COVID With Special Animal Vaccine

A Louisiana zoo has begun vaccinating its gorillas and orangutans against COVID-19 using a shot developed specifically for animals.

Audubon Zoo located in New Orleans in the US state of Louisiana released a press statement on Tuesday, 12th October, detailing its plan to vaccinate gorillas and orangutans at the zoo before moving onto other mammals.

Bob MacLean, Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian, said: “It’s very important to us to protect our animals against COVID-19 and the Delta variant.”

An illustrative photo of a Western Lowland Gorilla. (Audubon Nature Institute, Franklin Park Zoo/Newsflash)

The vaccine that is being used to protect the animals from COVID was donated to the zoo by Zoetis.

Zoetis Inc, a former Pfizer subsidiary whose research team is based in Michigan, donated 11,000 doses of its vaccine to over 70 zoos in the US.

The vaccine has been authorised for use on a case-by-case basis by the United States Department of Agriculture.

An illustrative photo of a lion. (Audubon Nature Institute/Newsflash)

Zoetis said in a statement: “Zoetis’ COVID-19 vaccine is uniquely formulated for animal species. Although the virus – or antigen – is the same as in human vaccines, vaccines for animals vary based on the carrier – or adjuvant – that is used.

“The unique combination of antigen and carrier ensures safety and efficacy for the species in which a vaccine is used.”

MacLean said: “We have been evaluating the scientific literature on animal susceptibility throughout the pandemic, and we are eager to protect our animals.”

An illustrative photo of an otter. (Audubon Nature Institute/Newsflash)

Audubon Zoo first plans to give the vaccine to gorillas and orangutans and then move on to cats and mustelids.

The zoo explained that the animals are being trained using positive reinforcement to participate voluntarily, meaning they’re not sedated when getting jabbed.

All staff working in close proximity with the animals have been following PPE protocols since the start of the pandemic.

Animal care staff working in close proximity with the animals in Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. (Audubon Nature Institute/Newsflash)

MacLean added: “This proactive measure is an additional layer of protection. The health of the animals in our care, staff and guests is our top priority.”

MacLean said: “Although there are no long-term studies since the virus emerged less than two years ago, development studies by Zoetis demonstrated the vaccine to be safe and have a reasonable expectation of efficacy in mounting an immune response in animals.”

The first documented case of an animal being infected with COVID-19 was a dog in Hong Kong last year, 2020, since then several other cases have been documented including three gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in January.

Animal care staff working in close proximity with the animals in Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. (Audubon Nature Institute/Newsflash)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the risk of animals spreading the virus to humans is low but humans can infect animals in some situations.

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