By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

The Oakland Zoo in Northern California began vaccinating their highest at risk animals last week with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine donated by animal health company, Zoetis.

Image/John and Karen Hollingsworth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tigers, Black bears, Grizzly bears, Mountain lions and ferrets were the first to receive their first of two doses. Next are primates, including Chimpanzees, Fruit bats, and pigs.

“Up until now, we have been using public barriers at certain habitats to ensure social distancing, along with enhanced PPE worn by staff to protect our susceptible species from COVID-19. We’re happy and relieved to now be able to better protect our animals with this vaccine, and are very thankful to Zoetis for not only creating it, but for donating it to us and dozens of other AZA-accredited zoos across the U.S.,” said Dr. Alex Herman,VP of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo.

Zoetis’ research and development team, headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, applied decades of experience developing other coronavirus vaccines for cats, dogs, poultry and cattle. 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. To further support veterinarians’, Zoetis also developed and validated feline and canine-specific real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

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“When the first dog was infected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong last year, we immediately began to work on a vaccine that could be used in domestic animals, and in eight months we completed our initial safety studies, which we presented at the World One Health Congress last year. While thankfully a COVID-19 vaccine is not needed in pets or livestock at this time, we are proud that our work can help zoo animals at risk of COVID-19,” said Mahesh Kumar, Senior Vice President, Global Biologics at Zoetis. “More than ever before, the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the important connection between animal health and human health, and we continue to monitor for emerging infectious diseases that can impact animals as well as people.”

Zoetis is donating more than 11,000 doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine to help protect the health and well-being of more than 100 mammalian species living in nearly 70 zoos, as well as more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions and government organizations located in 27 states. The vaccine has been authorized for experimental use on a case by case basis by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the appropriate state veterinarians.


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