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Quebec Zoo-Montreal wants to vaccinate wildlife with COVID-19 over the next few weeks

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After millions of Quebécois roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine, zoo animals can soon be attacked.

The Granby Zoo, east of Montreal, will immunize approximately 90 animals, including gorillas, big cats and other potentially disease-prone creatures, with COVID-19 within the next few weeks or months. He says he wants that. The vaccine is awaiting approval in Canada in the United States.

“Hopefully, we can start at least some seeds by Christmas,” zoo veterinarian Emily Couture said in a recent interview.

She said the zoo plans to vaccinate the species that appear to be the most vulnerable to COVID-19. She said primates and big cats such as tigers, jaguars and leopards are at the top of the list, adding that the zoo also includes other mammals such as red pandas.

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read more: Big cats, bears, ferrets: US zoos start vaccination of animals against COVID-19

According to Couture, the number of cases of COVID-19 is increasing “worried” among zoos in North America, especially among large felines such as lions and leopards. Last week, three snow leopards died of complications from COVID-19 at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska. This is what she said shocked the North American zoo community.

“Unlike the initial reports of a major illness in the early stages of the pandemic, there appear to be signs of the respiratory system, but eventually recovered without serious illness. Animals already have biosecurity measures. “We are taking steps,” said Couture.

She added that many scientists believe that the more infectious delta mutants, as in humans, are due to an increase in cases and serious illness.

The vaccine is manufactured by Zoetis, an American veterinary pharmaceutical company that began offering to zoos in the United States this summer. The company has offered to donate about 900 doses (enough for 450 animals) to six zoos in Canada. In a statement, Zoetis stated that the vaccine was specially developed and prescribed for animals and is intended to be given twice at intervals of several weeks, similar to that for humans.

read more: Animals are likely to be the cause of COVID-19, WHO studies say

The next step is to get the vaccine across borders, but it can still take weeks or months. Since the vaccine is not commercially available, Zoetis said it has applied for an license from the Canadian Veterinary Biology Center and the US Department of Agriculture.

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None of the animals at Granby Zoo have developed symptoms of COVID-19 that require testing, Couture said. Nonetheless, she said the zoo is taking steps to protect animals throughout the pandemic.

Humans appear to pose the greatest threat to animals when it comes to the COVID-19 epidemic, Couture said. So far, she said, there is no direct evidence that zoo animals are infected with handlers.

“The only source of (animal) infection is whether asymptomatic humans take care of them,” she said.

Both the Toronto Zoo and Calgary Zoo have said they will vaccinate animals when shots are available. Toronto added that it targets about 140 animals, including primates, large cats and pigs.

No Canadian company, like Granby, offers shots designed for animals, so both are waiting for the Zoetis vaccine.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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