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Memphis Zoo animals could possibly get the COVID-19 vaccine

“There are no studies yet as to whether it’s (the vaccine) effective in what species and like every individual their immune systems are going to vary.”

MEMPHIS, Tenn — From the west coast to the east coast zoo animals have tested positive for COVID-19, some with underlying conditions just like humans. The Memphis Zoo is preparing for possible vaccinations. 

Although the zoo has not vaccinated any animals yet, they’ve developed a list of species they think could benefit from it.

Big cats like lions and tigers, but no bears, at the Memphis Zoo are on the top of the list to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Apes like gorillas and orangutans are also on the list. 

“Our bonobos are exquisitely sensitive as far as we can tell,” said Memphis Zoo Senior Veterinarian Felicia Knightly.

Knightly said animals in other parts of the country have shown significant cold symptoms or have felt ill. 

“There are no studies yet as to whether it’s effective in what species and like every individual their immune systems are going to vary,” said Knightly. “How they react to the vaccination, how effective it’s going to be.”

Knightly said the zoo would first need to get permission from not only the USDA but a state veterinarian.

An animal vaccine would likely be given in two doses with the priority of a hand injection. It would also be manufactured specifically for animals. 

“We are taking it very cautiously,” Knightly explained. “The last thing we want to have happen is to have either something go awry where we have a bad result. Also, I think it needs to be carefully thought through.”

Keepers are protecting animals through sanitation plus masks and gloves.

The Memphis Zoo said currently there are no symptomatic animals under its care. Every time another surge or new variant emerges, zoo caretakers are on guard. 

“It not just affects us potentially but the animals that we care for and that to be honest is our biggest concern,” said Knightly.  

The zoo explained if it proceeds with vaccinations it would happen sometime before the new year.

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