Featured image courtesy of San Diego Zoo.
In February 2021, 4 orangutans and 5 bonobos received two doses each of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine at the San Diego Zoo.
One of the first of these great apes to get this new experimental vaccine was an orangutan named Karen, who was also the first orangutan in the world to have open-heart surgery in 1994.
Karen and the other 8 great apes received this experimental COVID-19 vaccine, which Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, recently developed. This new vaccine is not tested on, made for, or suitable for human use.
Chief conservation and wildlife health officer at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (formerly San Diego Zoo Global), Nadine Lamberski, explains that there is always some risk administering a vaccine in any species. However, Lamberski assures that this was no random vaccine and that it has gone through thorough and thoughtful research. She also states that “…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.”
The experimental Zoetis COVID-19 vaccine is said to work similarly to the Novavax human vaccine, where synthetic spike proteins trigger specific antibodies, the same as the live virus would. Again, this new vaccine is not tested on, made for, or suitable for human use.
The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance also hopes to vaccinate the gorilla troop at the safari park that recently contracted COVID-19 back in January. They hope to vaccinate the troop later this spring (60-90 days post-infection). You can read more about that story here >>