St. Louis Zoo starts vaccinating animals against COVID-19

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Zoo has started vaccinating about 100 animals to protect them from COVID-19.   

The shots began with the chimpanzee and great apes. Veterinarians say some animals are at risk of catching COVID from respiratory droplets from humans, perhaps zookeepers who may have close contact with the animals. 

Big cats and other carnivores also have received the vaccine. Sathya Chinnadurai, director of animal health at the zoo, said most of the injections can be done without giving animals anesthesia. He says through positive reinforcement training, even the big cats, will let a human, separated by a strong mesh barrier, give them a shot.   

“A lot of times we’ll train them with something that’s not sharp like a needle, something dull and slowly build up that behavior until they accept a sharp needle,” Chinnadurai said.

“That includes being trained to present a body part for a hand injection so many of our primates will actually come up to the mesh interact with their keeper staff and actually present either a shoulder or a leg to be given an injection awake.”

No animals at the St. Louis Zoo have been diagnosed with COVID or have shown symptoms. An animal health company produces the Zoetis vaccine just for animals, and they will need to get a second dose in a few weeks to be fully vaccinated.   

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