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Cincinnati Zoo Animals Practice Getting Their COVID Vaccines

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Cincinnati Zoo
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Trainers help a gorilla voluntarily prepare to take a COVID vaccine

Later this summer a global animal health organization is expected to send the Cincinnati Zoo doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for animals. When it arrives, the animals have to be ready to accept it.

For months, trainers have been working with gorillas, big cats and other animals who interact with people, so they will voluntarily accept the two-dose shot from Zoetis, which the pharmaceutical company is donating to 70 zoos.

The training is important, says Director of Animal Sciences David Orban. "This allows those animals to voluntarily participate in their own preventative health care and eliminates the risks associated with anesthesia."

How do you train animals to accept a shot? Trainer Jenna Wingate explains the process with meerkats in this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftjf5j6QJ18

Another video shows a https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/572783932">gorilla getting used to the idea.

Which animals get the vaccine first? The zoo says it will depend on the status of the training. Just like the human COVID-19 vaccine, the doses have to be stored and used before they expire.

One challenge is having to give both shots just a few weeks apart, according to Dr. Mark Campbell. "We're working really hard, especially for the past couple months, our veterinarian technician team, along with our animal care staff, to just reinforce that established behavior to accept those voluntary hand injections. But then we need to figure out how to (do it again) in three to four weeks afterwards."

To prepare, the zoo has been in contact with Zoetis and other zoos that have already administered the shots.

Right now, fully vaccinated guests at the Cincinnati Zoo are still required to wear a mask where there is close human-animal contact. After those animals are vaccinated, the zoo may drop the mask requirement.