Cincinnati Zoo vaccinates 80 animals against COVID-19

Vet techs at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden have vaccinated 80 animals against COVID-19, including giraffes. Photo courtesy the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
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Vet techs at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden have vaccinated 80 animals against COVID-19, including giraffes. Photo courtesy the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

After months of preparation, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has vaccinated dozens of animals against COVID-19.

Veterinary technicians administered two rounds of shots to 80 animals in the last six weeks, according to the zoo. Big cats, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, red pandas, goats, giraffes, river otters, skunks, bearcats and domestic dogs and cats that commonly share space with humans have received at least one dose with the zoo expected to finish second doses next week.

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“We have three technicians and they have their hands full with their regular routines and workloads,” said Dr. Mark Campbell, Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal health. “Adding the task of vaccinating dozens of animals, located all over the zoo’s campus, to their plates was a big request. Not surprisingly, they rolled up their sleeves and got busy, working quickly to ensure that each multi-dose vaccine container was used within 24 hours of opening and kept at the desired temperature at all times.”

In the months leading up to the vaccine’s arrival, vet techs and zookeepers worked to get animals comfortable with what they would feel and see during the injections. As a result, most animals received the vaccine without anesthesia, according to the zoo.

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“We usually have a year for the animals that receive flu shots and other routine annual vaccinations to forget about the sting, but the second COVID shots had to be given within three weeks of the first,” said Campbell. “We were concerned that the fresh memory of the first injection would make animals less willing to offer a shoulder or thigh for the second round, but they did! That success is 100% due to the strong relationships these animals have with care staff and our animal health team.”

The zoo hasn’t observed any adverse reactions to the vaccine, however, care teams are continuing to monitor the animals’ health and immunity response, according to the zoo. Staff will share their observations and data with Zoetis, the organization that provided the vaccine.

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