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ZooTampa plans to vaccinate its mammals from COVID-19

TAMPA, FLA.- — ZooTampa plans to vaccinate its mammals at the zoo from COVID-19.

Dr. Cynthia Stringfield, Senior Vice President of Animal Health, Conservation & Education, said the vaccines will be given to animals in the next month or so.

“We’re looking at sometime later in the summer maybe early fall. We’ll be gradually implementing a very thoughtful vaccination program of certain species that we think are high risk,” said Dr. Stringfield.

Dr. Stringfield said the vaccine is different from the vaccine humans received. The vaccine will be given in two doses, 21 days apart.

“Our apes are at the very top of the list. We know the great apes, gorillas, orangutans can get COVID and we have a big fabulous family of orangutans here so they are at the very top of our list. We have a very endangered tiger, Malayan tiger, so he’s also at the top of the list,” said Dr. Stringfield.

The CDC reported several animals in zoos and sanctuaries have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, including big cats (lions, tigers, pumas, cougars, snow leopards) and non-human primates (gorillas) after showing signs of illness. It is suspected that these animals became sick after being exposed to an animal caretaker with COVID-19.

In many situations, this happened despite the staff wearing personal protective equipment and following COVID-19 precautions, according to the CDC.

Dr. Stringfield said none of the animals at ZooTampa have contracted the virus. She said staff takes precautions like keeping a safe distance from the animals and wearing masks.

She said they do not know how effective the vaccine will be for animals.

“We don’t know efficacy yet because it’s brand new. It hasn’t really been studied for efficacy. We’re comfortable that it’s safe and that it should provide good protection.”

She said the zoo community will be following up with the animals after they become vaccinated. They will make sure the animals develop antibodies.

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