Reid Park Zoo administering COVID-19 vaccines to susceptible animals

Reid Park Zoo administering COVID-19 vaccines to susceptible animals
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 6:19 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Reid Park Zoo is in the process of vaccinating susceptible animals against COVID-19.

Dr. Alexis Roth, chief veterinarian at the zoo, said the decision was made after numerous studies show susceptible animals can contract and in some cases die from the virus.

“What we’ve learned throughout the pandemic is that there are numerous species who are as, if not more, susceptible to the virus as humans are,” Roth said. “The good news is we now have a vaccine for animals. It’s really important for animals like giraffes who interact with the public during our feeding platform.”

Because COVID-19 can be given to animals through human contact, Roth said the zoo has taken numerous precautions to protect animals at risk of infection. For instance, masks must be worn when feeding giraffes and social distancing must occur when viewing exhibits of susceptible animals.

“What we don’t know is if animals can give the virus to people,” Roth said. “We have not documented that to date.”

At Reid Park Zoo, primates, big cats, giraffes and other unique species such as anteaters will receive the vaccine. Roth said animals will receive an initial dose then a booster about three months later.

She said the decision to vaccinate was easy because animals in zoos across the nation have shown little to no side effects from the vaccine.

“Although the virus, which is the antigen is the same, the carrier itself is actually extremely safe,” Roth said. “What we know from zoos across the country is that there is very little, if not no reaction to the species who have been vaccinated.”

Roth said the zoo had to apply for the vaccine and was later approved to receive a shipment. Vaccinations will be taking place throughout January.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, no animals at Reid Park Zoo have tested positive for the virus.

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