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Zoo New England starts vaccinating animals against COVID-19

Zoo New England predicts full vaccination of all the at-risk animals will take about three to four months.

Zoo New England
Anala, female tiger at Franklin Park Zoo, participates in training with staff to prepare to receive the vaccine. Zoo New England has started to administer COVID-19 vaccines to their animals. Zoo New England

Zoo New England — the organization that operates the Stone Zoo and Franklin Park Zoo — has started vaccinating their animals against COVID-19, according to a release from the organization on Wednesday.

“While we have not had any cases of COVID-19 with the animals at Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo, this vaccine is an important preventative health measure to protect species that are susceptible to contracting the virus,” said Dr. Chris Bonar, Senior Veterinarian in Zoo New England’s Animal Health Department in the statement.

According to Zoo New England, the species at highest risk of COVID-19 include primates, large cats such as lions, tigers, and snow leopards, otters, and ferrets. These species will be vaccinated first.

Animals

Zoo New England predicts full vaccination of all the at-risk animals will take about three to four months. The animal COVID-19 vaccines — developed by the global animal health company Zoetis — involve two doses administered about four weeks apart, similar to the human COVID-19 vaccine.

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The United States Department of Agriculture is authorizing COVID-19 vaccine use for animals on a case by case basis in partnership with state veterinarians.

Zoo New England also noted they have been monitoring the science on COVID-19 infections in animals and implementing measures such as masking, social distancing, and using protective equipment when working with susceptible species.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the Animal Health team has been staying abreast of the latest scientific literature on animal susceptibility, and is in close contact with veterinary colleagues at other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” Zoo New England wrote in the statement.

Zoetis has donated more than 11,000 does of the vaccine to almost 70 zoos to be used on more than 110 species, Zoo New England reported. According to their website, Zoetis is the world’s largest producer of pet and livestock vaccinations.

“We are deeply committed to providing exceptional care to all of the animals residing at our zoos,” Bonar said. “While we do not expect any adverse reactions to the vaccine, nor have any been reported from other zoos, we will be monitoring all of the animals closely for any signs of a vaccine reaction.”

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