Animals expected to get COVID-19 vaccine shots at N.C. Zoo

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Health leaders at the CDC said animals are now testing positive for COVID-19 and some are getting vaccinated.

Several animals in zoos and sanctuaries worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19, this includes big cats and primates such as gorillas and chimps. It’s one reason why one zoo in the Carolinas is gearing up to vaccinate some of their most vulnerable animals.

The North Carolina Zoo is expected to begin vaccinating their Great Apes, which includes gorillas and chimpanzees, within the coming weeks. As they receive additional doses they could begin vaccinating otters, bears, lions and red wolves.

According to health experts at the CDC, there’s evidence showing a low risk of animals spreading the virus to humans but it’s been proven that humans can possibly spread COVID-19 to animals.

Zoos such as North Carolina Zoo and Oakland Zoo, are taking the ultimate precautionary measure to protect their animals — vaccine shots. Officials said they’re not afraid to let science lead the way.

“We are a science based organization. Animal care and wellness is our number one priority. All of our decisions are made based in science and this is the direction our veterinary staff feel is best for our animals,” Debbie Fuchs, public information officer at NC Zoo, said.

The NC Zoo said none of their animals have tested positive for the virus. Zoo officials credit their ultra-strict protocols in place for staff who handle the animals.

“We maintain very very strict protocols when dealing with any of our animals in terms of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been spared from any animals testing positive,” Fuchs said.

The company, Zoetis, donated nearly 11,000 doses of the vaccine to several zoos across the country.

Dr. Jb Minter, Chief Veterinarian at the NC Coo said this isn’t the one of the human vaccines we all know about— this one is for animals.

“This vaccine is uniquely formulated for animal species.  The vaccine has been authorized as experimental by the USDA and can be used on a case by case basis with approval from the USDA and the appropriate state veterinarians.”

 Dr. Jb Minter, Chief Veterinarian and Director of Animal Health at N.C. Zoo

If you’re planning a visit things will look normal, zoo officials said the vaccine shouldn’t negatively impact the animals.

“The animals will receive the vaccine, they’ve received other vaccines during just regular animal care and wellness exams and they should be ready to go right back on habitat” Fuchs said.

A spokesperson for Greenville Zoo said vaccines are ‘under consideration’ for their animals.

For more information on COVID-19 and animals, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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