Detroit Zoo to vaccinate some animals for COVID-19

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Some of the animals at the Detroit Zoo are taking their shot against COVID-19.

Zoo officials said Monday they have started to vaccinate animals believed to be the most susceptible to the virus.

Detroit Zoo officials said they will vaccinate animals they believe are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. Gorillas, chimps, tigers and lions will be the first to receive doses, they said.

The animals will get a special vaccine developed exclusively for animals by a veterinary pharmaceutical company called Zoetis. The United States Department of Agriculture authorized use of the vaccine on a case-by-case basis. 

Gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers and lions are the first to receive doses, Detroit Zoo officials said.

"Much like we vaccinate dogs for things like parvovirus, distemper or rabies, this is needed to protect animals at the Zoo," Ann Duncan, director of animal health for the Detroit Zoological Society said in a statement.

Officials said several lions, tigers, leopards and gorillas have contracted COVID-19 in other U.S. zoos. In European and Indian zoos, a tiger and a lion have died from the virus.

To date, no COVID-19 infections have been found in animals at the Detroit Zoo.

"The animals routinely get other vaccinations," Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer for the Detroit Zoological Society, said in a statement. "Many of the mammals are trained to present themselves to our animal care staff for minor medical procedures, including vaccinations. We’re both thankful and relieved a special vaccine is now available to protect against COVID-19."

Headquartered in Kalamazoo, Zoetis developed its vaccine using its decades of experience, the zoo said. The company is also donating more than 11,000 doses to 70 zoos as well as more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries and other organizations across 27 states.

Zoetis was part of Pfizer until it spun off in 2013, according to a spokesman for the drug manufacturer.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez