BALTIMORE — The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore will begin giving COVID vaccines to some of its animals.

The animals to be vaccinated include cat species — including lions, leopards and cheetahs — a well as river otters and chimpanzees, the zoo announced Tuesday, Sept. 14.

“We plan to vaccinate those species at the Zoo that we have assessed to be most likely to contract SARS CoV-2, including the North American river otters, the chimpanzees and our cat species – Amur leopard, cheetah, bobcat, and lion,” said Dr. Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation, and research at the Maryland Zoo. “Many of these animals are trained to participate in their own health care, meaning they willingly work with the animal care team and veterinary technicians to receive injections, and in some cases to even allow blood to be drawn and have ultrasound examinations performed while awake. The training avoids the need in some situations to anesthetize the animal for minor medical procedures.”

Zoetis — drug company that specializes in animal vaccines and was previously part of Pfizer — is donating 11,000 does of its COVID vaccine to more than 70 zoos and other facilities.

“We expect to receive the vaccine in the fall from the animal health company Zoetis, which has developed a vaccine specifically for animals,” Bronson said. “We have not had any cases of COVID-19 in the animals here, but the vaccine will add another layer of protection for the animals in our care.”

The vaccinated animals will be monitored for side effects, Bronson said.

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