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San Antonio Zoo to vaccinate its animals against COVID-19 ‘very soon’

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The San Antonio Zoo will vaccine its animals against COVID-19 with a shot from the company Zoetis, first starting with lions, tigers and primates. (San Antonio Zoo photo)

SAN ANTONIO (KXAN) — The San Antonio Zoo plans to vaccinate it animals against COVID-19 “very soon” after it receives its first shipment of specialized shots.

Big cats and primates are scheduled for the first round of animals receiving doses, zoo officials said. Specifically, African lions, Sumatran tigers, white-cheeked gibbons and Francois langurs will get the shots that were made uniquely for animals, although they are similar to the human version. The vaccines require a booster three weeks after the first shot.

More species will get the vaccine as more doses become available, but Dr. Rob Coke with the zoo said they want to focus on animals that have shown they can be infected.

“We are looking to initially vaccinate those species that have been shown to contract COVID-19,” Coke said. “Species such as our large and medium cat species, lesser apes, other primates, mongoose, monk, ferrets, and otters are all on our list to vaccinate.  Others will be added to the list as vaccine availability and research progresses.”

Experimental use of the vaccine is authorized by the U.S Department of Agriculture and the Texas state veterinarian. The vaccine was made and donated by Zoetis, the world’s largest producer of vaccines for pets and livestock formerly owned by Pfizer.

“We are very excited to be one of the initial zoos in the country to obtain and administer the Zoetis vaccine,” said Tim Morrow, president and CEO of the San Antonio Zoo. “Our veterinary and animal care teams have worked incredibly hard to protect and prevent our animals from contracting COVID-19 through increased disinfection, personal protective equipment, and new guest procedures. Vaccinating our animals is one more important step.”

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