Zoos in Canada will give COVID-19 vaccinations to animals

Canadian Lynx (Lynx Canadensis) with wary stare, Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg, MB, Canada (Photo by: Dennis Fast / VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A Canadian Lynx is seen at Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, one of the zoos receiving vaccine donations. Big cats are among the animals getting vaccinations. Dennis Fast / VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • Zoos in Canada will give COVID-19 vaccinations for animals, including Assiniboine Park Zoo.
  • Zoetis, a Veterinary pharmaceutical giant, is donating 900 doses for 450 animals from lions to apes.
  • Zoetis has already administered vaccinations in US zoos like the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Animals from big cats to primates in Canadian zoos are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, Ottawa Citizen reports.

Veterinary pharmaceutical giant Zoetis made an experimental COVID-19 vaccine and is donating 900 doses to animals in six Canadian zoos, according to the newspaper.

The vaccine isn’t commercially available yet, but is has a permit from the US Department of Agriculture and the Canadian Centre for Veterinary Biologics of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency authorized it for experimental use, Zoetis spokesperson Christina Lood told Ottawa Citizen. 

By the end of the year, Lood said she expects 450 zoo animals to receive the two doses, three weeks apart, according to the same article. 

“When animals are in our care, it’s important to do everything we can to keep them healthy and happy,” Chris Enright, the veterinarian at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, one of the six receiving the donation, told Ottawa Citizen. “There’s an important role for vaccinations to play in this effort, including the emerging animal-specific COVID-19 vaccination.”

Big cats, apes, otters, and hyenas are some zoo animals that are susceptible to the virus, according to Ottawa Citizen. Pets can get it too, but they’re considered low-risk cases, Lood told Ottawa Citizen, adding that if that changes, Zoetis will rapidly develop a vaccine for domestic animals.

Zoetis has been working on the vaccine since a dog in Hong Kong was diagnosed with COVID-19 in February 2020, Ottawa Citizen reports, and Zoetis donated its first doses for emergency use to great apes at the San Diego Zoo in January 2021. 

Last month, The Washington Post reported that US zoos including Oakland, Denver, St. Louis and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo have all started to receive vaccines from Zoetis, and vaccination administers are using treats from ice cream to marshmallows to get the animals, from lions to tigers and bears, to oblige. 

Unlike the human COVID-19 vaccine, Zoetis said the animal version doesn’t use a live virus or messenger RNA, Lood told Ottawa Citizen. 

Zoetis didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.