From gorillas to goats, the Houston Zoo has vaccinated a wide range of susceptible animals against the COVID-19 virus. In early spring, the Zoo received 200 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed and donated by Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company. Each animal received two doses of the vaccine approximately three weeks apart. To date, 94 Zoo animals have been vaccinated with no significant adverse effects.
“The health and well-being of our animals is our top priority, and the vaccine adds another layer of protection,” said Kevin Hodge, vice president of animal programs at the Houston Zoo. “Thanks to our animal keeper and veterinary team’s consistent training techniques, many of our animals participated in their own medical care when they received each dose of the vaccine.”
Keepers regularly work with animals toward perfecting voluntary husbandry behaviors that make medical procedures, such as blood draws and injections, positive for the animals. While most of the animals received the vaccines through voluntary hand injections by keepers and veterinary staff other animals got their dose during routine medical exams, some, under anesthesia. Since the pandemic broke out, the Zoo has not had any cases of animals infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID in humans.
Thousands of zoo animals around the country have received the Zoetis vaccine. Zoetis is intended to be given solely to animals and went through a different approval process than for people. The Zoetis vaccine cannot be used to protect humans and is not recommended for pets.
Guests can learn more about the animals at the Zoo by attending one of the daily Meet the Keeper Talks, presented by Phillips 66. By simply coming to the Zoo guests are saving animals in the wild as a portion of every Zoo admission ticket supports wildlife-saving efforts around the world.