Sedgwick County Zoo to vaccinate some animals against COVID-19

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Vaccinations against the coronavirus have expanded beyond people. At the Sedgwick County Zoo, big cats and great apes are getting the Zoetis vaccine to protect them against COVID-19.

Vaccinations for animals are based on what species have the greatest risk of catching the virus.

“So, those are the two big ones that we’re going to focus on first, and then as new information comes along, we’ll make decisions and then go from there,” said Dr. Mary Ceccolini, a veterinarian at the Sedgwick County Zoo.

As for administering the vaccine, most of the animals are trained to receive hand injections.  

“So, the animal comes over, and they’ll sit down, probably get rewarded, and then the technician can go ahead and administer the vaccine,” said Dr. Ceccolini. 

The zoo is expected to receive the vaccines in October.

“The vaccines that we’re using are designed for animals,” said Dr. Ceccolini. “So, you know, even for our great apes they’re going to get vaccinated with animal vaccines and not with human vaccines.”

As for now, workers at the zoo are trying to limit contact with the animals. They are wearing masks and gloves and have stopped doing elective procedures for the time being.

“We’ve been really lucky here, we haven’t had any animals test positive,” said Dr. Ceccolini. “We haven’t had any clinical signs of disease in our collection.”

The current hours for the Sedgwick County Zoo are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

Officials at the Kansas City Zoo are also planning to vaccine some animals. The animals will receive the Zoetis vaccine, which was developed specifically for animals and won’t affect the supply of vaccines for humans.

More than 11,000 doses of that vaccine have been distributed across 70 zoos in 27 states.