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Winnipeg zoo giving COVID-19 vaccine to 55 animals including tigers and snow leopards

Primates, big cats, and those that have closer interaction with human caregivers more vulnerable
A camel receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg in a handout photo. The zoo uses a vaccine made uniquely for animals to protect them against COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Assiniboine Park Zoo

The Winnipeg zoo is giving a COVID-19 vaccine to some of its animals that are considered to be at greater risk of contracting the virus.

The Assiniboine Park Zoo says it has begun using a vaccine made uniquely for animals to protect them against the novel coronavirus.

Chris Enright, the zoo’s director of veterinary services, says vaccination is a common and safe way of protecting animals in human care from a variety of illnesses.

The zoo says certain animals are more vulnerable to COVID-19, including primates, big cats such as tigers and snow leopards and those that have closer interaction with human caregivers.

Fifty-five animals are expected to get the shots.

Several other zoological facilities in Canada are also giving the vaccine to animals.

“In addition to other biosecurity protocols we have in place here at the zoo, vaccination against COVID-19 adds another layer of protection for the most vulnerable species in our care,” Enright said in a news release Tuesday.

The vaccine is to be administered to the animals in two doses about three weeks apart. It is made by Zoetis, an American company which specializes in animal health. The vaccine’s use is authorized on a case-by-case basis by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the zoo said.

Other animals getting the vaccine include white-handed gibbons, squirrel monkeys, camels, goats, llamas, skunks and meerkats.

There has not been a diagnosed case of COVID-19 at the Winnipeg zoo.

There have been cases among animals at other zoos in North America, especially among large cats. Last year, three snow leopards died at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska.

—The Canadian Press

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