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Just Like Humans, Zoo Animals Will Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19. Here's How

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- With three different COVID vaccines being administered in the U.S., some pharmaceutical companies are now working toward a vaccine for animals, and the Maryland Zoo is already putting together their distribution plan for it once available.

The African lions are a must-see when visiting the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, but after the Bronx Zoo reported that their lions tested positive for COVID-19, officials began taking more precautions by requiring masks and expanding the distance around their lion exhibit.

Once a COVID-19 vaccine for animals is available it's likely that the big cats will be some of the first to receive a shot. The zoo plans to vaccinate its most high-risk animals first.

"We're looking at things like how small the buildings are, how close we can get to them, how close the public can get to them," said Dr. Ellen Bronson, the Sr. Director for Animal Health, Conservation & Research. "Also some of the animals that are older might be more at risk. We don't know that so far but we assume that our older chimpanzees might be more at risk than our younger chimpanzees, just like in humans."

Like humans, some animals will likely be more willing to receive their vaccine than others.

"Some of our animals are trained for voluntary vaccines," explained Dr. Bronson.

Those who are more reluctant may need a little more persuading.

"Managing the healthcare for a zoo is very similar to managing a village full of people," said Dr. Bronson. "That's what we do as veterinarians, is manage all of those risks and needs of all of the animals at the zoo."

The vaccine currently being developed is specifically for American mink, a species that was hit hard by the coronavirus. They're hopeful that it will also be effective in other animals. Similar to the human vaccine, the one for animals must first obtain emergency use authorization.

They hope that happens over the next few months.


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