Archive: The Detroit Zoo Vaccinates At-Risk Animals for COVID-19

August 30, 2021

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) has begun to vaccinate animals who are believed to be most susceptible to COVID-19. Use of the special vaccine, which was developed exclusively for animals by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis, has been authorized on a case-by-case basis by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers and lions are the first to receive doses.

“The animals routinely get other vaccinations. 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,” said Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer for the DZS.

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 but countless safety measures have been taken, including full PPE for staff as well as public barriers to ensure social distancing.

“Much like we vaccinate dogs for things like parvovirus, distemper or rabies, this is needed to protect animals at the Zoo,” said Dr. Ann Duncan, director of animal health for the DZS.

Zoetis’ research and development team, headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, applied decades of experience in developing this vaccine. Zoetis is donating more than 11,000 doses to 70 zoos as well as more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries and other organizations across 27 states.