(Montreal) After millions of Quebecers roll up their sleeves to receive their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, it will be the turn of the animals at the Granby Zoo to get vaccinated.
The zoo’s management says it hopes to be able to vaccinate about 90 animals in the coming weeks and months. These include gorillas, large cats, and other species that are more susceptible to disease. Animal vaccines are currently in the United States pending authorization.
In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, veterinarian Emily Couture said she was crossing her fingers that at least some species would have their vaccine by Christmas.
She added that the zoo plans to vaccinate species that appear to be most susceptible to COVID-19, such as primates, tigers, jaguars, leopards and some other mammals such as the red panda.
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Last week, three snow leopards died of complications from COVID-19 at Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska. The vet said the event greatly shook the North American zoo community.
Emily Couture notes that, unlike the beginning of the epidemic, infection appears to lead to a more severe form of the disease. As with humans, the delta variable could be to blame according to animal health experts.
Vaccines designed for animals are produced by the pharmaceutical company Zoetis, which specializes in veterinary medicine. American zoos began using it during the summer. The company has offered to donate about 900 doses to six Canadian zoos. Zoetis said his vaccine is designed specifically for animals and should be given in two doses, over a few weeks, like those for humans.
The next step is to introduce the doses to Canada, which could take weeks or even months. Because the vaccine has not been commercialized, Zoetis is seeking approval for experimental use from the Canadian Center for Veterinary Medicine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to veterinarian Emily Couture, no animal has shown symptoms similar to COVID-19 at Granby Zoo. However, the facility has measures in place throughout the pandemic to protect its animals, including improving cleaning practices, suspending backstage visits, reducing touch interactions, and requiring hand sanitizing and mask-wearing among guards.
NSI Couture stresses that the greatest danger to animals comes from humans, while there is no known case of an animal infecting a guardian.
Zoos in Toronto and Calgary have already indicated that they would like to vaccinate their animals as soon as the product is available. The Toronto administration has already identified 140 animals, including primates, big cats and pigs.
All zoos are waiting for the Zoetis vaccine to arrive as there is no Canadian company that offers such a product to animals.
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