Animals at Brookfield Zoo have begun receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, with Lincoln Park Zoo soon to follow, as federal and state officials approved the use of the inoculations.
The vaccine was formulated for animals and donated by Zoetis, a former Pfizer subsidiary. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Illinois state veterinarian signed off on its use.
“The threat of COVID-19 to humans and animals is interconnected,” Dr. Mike Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, said in a statement. “We know a variety of animal species can transmit and become sick from coronaviruses. Vaccinating animals is not only important for their own health, but healthy animals help keep humans healthy too.”
Veterinarians at Brookfield are first vaccinating species known to be more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus. Among this initial tier: primates, small carnivores, the zoo’s animal ambassadors, big cats and bears.
Similar to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines developed for humans, the Zoetis vaccine is administered in two doses, delivered three weeks apart, with animals considered fully protected two weeks after receiving their second dose.
Once Brookfield’s western lowland gorillas and Rodrigues fruit bats have been fully vaccinated, the zoo will reopen its Tropic World: Africa section and Australia House, likely later this fall.
Lincoln Park Zoo has also received Zoetis doses and is planning to vaccinate its most vulnerable species in the coming weeks, according to a spokeswoman.
Though zoos are receiving the experimental vaccine, doses for pets such as dogs and cats are not recommended.