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San Diego Zoo, Safari Park to begin vaccinating some animals against COVID-19

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Posted at 3:07 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 18:10:06-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance said staff at the zoo and Safari Park will begin to vaccinate select animals for COVID-19 "opportunistically" over the next few weeks to months.

Last week, a spokesperson said the zoo received Zoetis recombinant purified spike protein vaccines to be used for animals, but that those vaccinations would take place only when veterinarians have an opportunity to examine the animals.

"Some of our animals are trained to sit for injections while others are not. We will administer the vaccines as appropriate for each animal. We do not plan to put an animal under anesthesia just to give them the vaccine," the spokesperson said.

RELATED: San Diego Zoo Safari Park gorillas recover from COVID-19

Animals that might receive the vaccine include primates, like vervet monkeys or Hamadryas baboons; felids, like lions, tigers, cheetahs; mustelids, like otters; and carnivores, like hyenas and dholes. Other animals may be selected to be vaccinated as well.

Earlier this year, a gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park contracted COVID-19. It was the world's first known COVID-19 transmission from humans to gorillas. Staff described those gorillas infected as lethargic, had runny noses, and showed lung problems, which are all symptoms mirroring those of infected humans.

The infected gorillas were given steroids and antibiotics. One gorilla, 49-year-old Winston, received monoclonal antibody treatment. The others showed mild symptoms but healed with ibuprofen. When it came time for special animal vaccines, the 26 doses were given to orangutans, bonobos, and another gorilla troop at the zoo in Downtown San Diego.

RELATED: Big cats, bears, ferrets get COVID-19 vaccine at Oakland Zoo

Zoetis provided the zoo with a limited supply of the spike protein vaccine, which was given to other animals including orangutans, bonobos, and another gorilla troop at Balboa Park location.

The zoo said that animals that have already received the vaccine are doing well and have not had any adverse reactions.

Earlier this month, the Oakland Zoo began inoculating its big cats, bears, and ferrets against the coronavirus using the Zoetis vaccine.