WARMINGTON: Some Toronto Zoo animals slated for COVID shot

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First, the Toronto Zoo mandated staff and visitors be vaccinated against COVID-19. Now zoo bosses want to do the same for the animals.

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“We have not vaccinated any of our animals yet but want to,” said zoo spokesperson Jennifer Tracey.

The Toronto Sun has learned the zoo is waiting for regulatory approvals to protect animals from the deadly virus which has been blamed for the deaths of a snow leopard in a South Dakota zoo and a lion in India.

The Toronto Zoo indicated Wednesday it is working on purchasing vaccine shots for animals.

“While the experimental vaccine is not approved yet in Canada, we are working closely with the manufacturer, Zoetis, to obtain access to the vaccines,” said Tracey.

She explained this is being done “with the hopes of vaccinating our animals that are most susceptible to COVID-19 — like our primates, big cats and swine.”    All of this would be preventative since no animal at the Toronto Zoo has come down with COVID.

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The Cincinnati Zoo announced it has vaccinated 80 animals, including big cats, great apes, red pandas, goats, giraffes, river otters, skunks, and bearcats.

On its website, Dr. Mark Campbell said the Cincinnati Zoo was “concerned that the fresh memory of the first injection would make animals less willing to offer a shoulder or thigh for the second round, but they did!”

The Toronto Zoo has more than 5,000 animals, but the vaccine will be administered to only some, including lions, gorillas, monkeys, tigers, and gorillas that are at risk of catching COVID  from handlers or guests.

“We do not have a sense of timing around approval yet” for the “more than 140 animals that would qualify,” added zoo spokesperson Katie Gray. “At the time that we ordered the vaccines, there was only one company offering a product that was developed for animals — that was Zoetis. There is no Canadian manufacturer or other companies offering an animal-specific COVID vaccine.”

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I reached out to business analyst Lou Schizas to learn more about Zoetis, which turns out to be a major player in animal health.

“Zoetis Inc. is an American drug company, the world’s largest producer of medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock,” explained Schizas, who added the company was once a subsidiary of COVID-vaccine producer, Pfizer.

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On it’s website, Zoetis describes itself as a company that “discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines, and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests, and precision livestock farming. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers, and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals in more than 100 countries.”

Zoetis is listed to have a Canadian office in Quebec.

“Once the Zoetis experimental vaccine acquires sufficient data from the clinical trials, the company will seek approval from the animal regulatory agencies” like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Upon approval, the Toronto Zoo will join Cincinnati in being a facility where staff, visitors, and animals are all vaccinated.

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