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Gorillas Are The First Animals To Recieve COVID-19 Vaccination

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After a group of eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo in the United States tested positive for COVID-19, they were given an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The zoo has a suspicion that the apes caught the virus from a worker. One of the eight gorillas, named Karen, was also the first in the world to have open-heart surgery performed on her in 1994.

The vaccine was manufactured by Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company. The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance tweeted “A win for science”. Nadine Lamberski, a wildlife health officer at the Zoo, told National Geographic that “this isn’t the norm”. She also said that they haven’t had access to an experimental vaccine this early in the process and haven’t had such an overwhelming desire to want to use one. Blood taken from two of the vaccinated animals will soon show if they developed antibodies or not. The presence of antibodies will indicate that the vaccine has worked.

The vaccine was developed by Zoetis after the first dog tested positive for COVID-19 in February 2020. Even though no one really knew if the vaccine would work on apes, they took a risk. Lamberski further told National Geographic that the apes did not have any reactions to the vaccine. She also says, “it’s not like we randomly grab a vaccine and give it to a novel species. A lot of thought and research goes into it—what’s the risk of doing it and what’s the risk of not doing it. Our motto is, above all, to do no harm.”

Mahesh Kumar, senior vice president of global biologics at Zoetis, says that the vaccine works in the same manner as Novavax. Novavax is a vaccine for humans which still in the process of trials. Instead of using a live virus, it uses synthetic spike proteins to trigger the same antibodies as the live virus would. 

Christina Lood, a spokesperson for Zoetis says that other US zoos have also asked for the vaccine for their animals and they aim to provide it by June of this year.

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