Philadelphia Zoo now vaccinating animals against COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The process is now underway to vaccinate more than 100 animals against COVID-19 at the Philadelphia Zoo.

The animal team began the vaccination process this week with a focus on higher-risk animals to begin.

"Gorillas, orangutans, smaller monkeys," said Dr. Keith Hinshaw, director of animal health at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Hinshaw says the meat-eating animals are also among the first on the list that needs to be vaccinated.

"The carnivores would be the big cats, our maned wolf, otters, bears, and animals in that family," Hinshaw added.

Many of the animals are accustomed to receiving annual vaccination shots, according to Hinshaw.

"This isn't really much different for them, but obviously, it's a pretty exciting time for us," said Hinshaw. "We're not out of the woods by any means, but it is a step forward that we've been waiting for, for a long time."

He says the animals will be given a vaccine made by Zoetis. It's administered in two doses.

There aren't any reported COVID cases among animals at the Philadelphia Zoo like at other zoos across the country, but staff members will watch closely for symptoms.
"The symptoms you might see in our animals are pretty similar to what you might see in a person, so respiratory disease, feeling really crummy, lack of appetite, lack of energy," Hinshaw said.

While symptoms are similar to what people could experience and even become deadly at times, the vaccine for animals is not the same as what people are receiving.

Hinshaw said prevention, however, must happen on all fronts.

"We really don't want this virus replicating in animals or people. Every time it infects another person or an animal and multiplies, that's a chance for another variant to develop," said Hinshaw.

The animal team adds they will keep a close watch on whether there might be a need for booster shots in the future.

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