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ZooTampa begins vaccinating animals most susceptible to COVID-19

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Posted at 9:28 AM, Oct 14, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — ZooTampa is beginning to administer COVID-19 vaccines to animals deemed most susceptible to the virus, the zoo announced on Thursday.

The zoo is using a vaccine made exclusively for animals, which was created by the Michigan-based veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis.

“The safety and well-being of the more than 1000 animals entrusted to our care is of paramount priority. We have not had any cases of animals contracting COVID-19 at ZooTampa and continue to follow stringent protocols which have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Senior VP of Animal Health, Conservation & Education, Dr. Cynthia Stringfield.

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“The animals routinely get other vaccinations. Many of the animals are trained to present themselves to our animal care staff for minor medical procedures, including vaccinations. We’re both thankful and relieved a special vaccine is now available to protect animals against COVID-19, some which are endangered and threatened species.”

The zoo said the special vaccines have been used to vaccinate species known to be more vulnerable to contracting the virus in other zoological organizations.

ZooTampa is one of 70 zoos, research institutions and sanctuaries working with Zoetis, who has donated the vaccines. ZooTampa has 220 doses, which it said it enough to vaccinate roughly 19 species which includes 93 animals.

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The zoo's veterinary team developed a schedule for the vaccine rollout, which puts species like the Florida panther, skunks, otters and primates at the top of the list.

“Our expert staff of animal care and medical professionals will continue to monitor our animals throughout the vaccination process closely,” added Dr. Stringfield.

According to a press release, the Zoetis COVID-19 vaccine received investigational authorization by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Zoetis’ research and development team applied decades of experience developing other antiviral vaccines for cats, dogs, poultry, and cattle to create a COVID-19 vaccine uniquely formulated for animal species.