Now that a vaccine has been developed for animals, the Tulsa Zoo is vaccinating their more at risk animals against the disease.
Not only are humans at risk for catching COVID-19, but animals are too. The Tulsa Zoo has begun giving their animals vaccines in order to decrease the risk of them contracting COVID-19 from humans. Some animals are at a higher risk, including tigers, lions, snow leopards, jaguars, bears, chimpanzees and other species.. They will be administering the vaccines in order of which group is at the highest risk, similar to how humans administered the vaccine to the elderly and at-risk population first.
The vaccine was developed by Zoetis, and was manufactured to be unique to animals. Zoetis is a company dedicated to using science to find new ways to lengthen the lifespan of animals and increase the quality of their lives. Zoetis’ website says, “Zoetis discovers, develops and manufactures vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and other technologies for companion animals and livestock.” Zoetis’ mission and research is helping Tulsa Zoo protect the health of their animals, and all animals around the world.
The Tulsa Zoo plans to have all of their selected animals vaccinated by the end of September. They will each acquire two doses, three weeks apart. The animals are being closely observed to guarantee their health throughout the process. Director of Animal Health and Senior Staff Veterinarian Dr. Kay Backues explains, “We’re offering the vaccine as an additional form of preventative care, further protecting the animals in our care, including many species which are endangered.” The zoo has also taken other precautions to protect their animals from Covid-19 over the past two years. The zoo mandated masks for their employees who work closely with the animals. Also, they installed more hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the zoo. They recommend all visitors follow CDC guidelines, but there is currently no mask mandate at the Tulsa Zoo for customers.
Some may ask, “Why now?” The time to vaccinate animals is now because humans were the world’s first priority for vaccinations. The first human vaccine was released in Dec. 2020. Now that the vaccine for humans has been available and improved for almost two years, animals are the next step. Dr. Cathy Knupp, Executive Vice President of Zoetis states, “The idea of “one health” – that animal health is linked to public health – has never been more compelling than it is today as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the world with tragic rates of human infection, serious illness and death, along with economic devastation.”
The health of animals directly impacts the health of humans. In order to make sure the spread of Covid among all humans and animals is as minimal as possible, it is important to vaccinate them for zoonotic diseases. Dr. Knupp goes on to say, “According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 60% of infectious diseases in the world are zoonotic and at least 75% of emerging infectious diseases have an animal origin.” These statistics signify how keeping animals well and clean keeps the whole world population healthier.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire planet, even beyond humans. Ensuring the safety of animals, staff and customers from Covid, and all other zoonotic diseases, is noteworthy of the Tulsa Zoo.