New Jersey company making COVID-19 vaccines for zoo animals

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
PARSIPPANY, New Jersey (WABC) -- The race continues to get people around the world vaccinated against COVID-19, but many animals are also getting the shot as well.

They are not getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, however. Instead, they are getting one made by a Zoetis Global Biologics, a company in New Jersey.

"The vaccine that's experimental today, would like be the vaccine that would be available in the future for cats and dogs as well," Senior Vice President Dr. Mahesh Kumar said.

Zoo animals have been receiving an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, a two dose regimen, just like ours.

"We started work on the vaccine last year when the pandemic happened," Kumar said. "When we first heard the case of dogs and cats in Hong Kong."

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Zoetis is headquartered in Parsippany, and it has donated 11,000 doses to 70 zoos across the country designed to treat more than 100 different species.

It comes after zoo animals were also hit by the coronavirus pandemic last year, including gorillas at the San Diego Zoo, a snow leopard in Kentcuky, and several tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo.

"It's important both ways, human to animal and animal to human," Kumar said. "Especially with a disease like this, where we know it can cross from species to species, that we're protecting the animals and more importantly, to us."

The new science has been welcomed by many.

"We've been waiting for these vaccines for quite some time, for several months," Oakland Zoo CEO Nik Deheja said. "So having these vaccines donated from Zoetis has been incredible."

The very first doses were administered just last week at the Oakland Zoo.

"Certainly, as being one of the first to get the vaccine, we are actively talking within the veterinary community, across other zoos," Deheja said. "A lot of information is being shared."

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In our area, the Bronx, Central Park and Prospect Park zoos are all getting doses, as well as the New York Aquarium.

"We appreciate the support and assistance of Zoetis in providing the vaccine, which has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New York State Veterinarian for our use," the aquarium said in a statement.

It's a collective effort they hope will keep animals safe.

"We're all in this together," Deheja said. "This is not just a human problem. It's a human and animal problem. So if we can cooperatively share our understanding, it'll be better for everybody."

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