Memphis Zoo animals may soon get COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 10:33 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Zoo leaders discussed COVID-19 testing and vaccines with their animals Tuesday.

Senior Veterinarian Felicia Knightly says the zoo’s great apes are at the top of the list to receive the vaccine due to their relation to human beings. But she also says there are no studies out yet that say whether a COVID-19 vaccine would be effective in certain species of animals.

“For us, we are taking it very cautiously. The last thing we want to have happen is to have either something go awry where we have a bad result and also I think it needs to be very carefully thought through,” said Knightly.

She says she thinks it would be a good idea to get samples of the animals before and after vaccination to get the full scope of the effect it has.

Knightly says the Memphis Zoo does not routinely test for the virus. Some animals are asymptomatic, others have mild symptoms and animals with preexisting conditions have a harder time.

“We are watching very vigilantly, every single day,” said Knightly. “Our keepers are still protecting our animals through sanitation, through PPE such as masks and gloves -- diet preparation is extremely important,” said Knightly.

As of now, none of the animals at the Memphis Zoo have been vaccinated but if the zoo should decide to, its animal collection will receive the vaccine from the manufacturer that’s manufacturing it specifically for animals.

“We have actually not vaccinated any of our animals yet. This is a process that is under some experimentation,” said Knightly.

Felicia Knightly, senior veterinarian at the Memphis Zoo says if studies show the vaccine is effective they will beginning vaccinating their animals before the new year.

“Right now the amount of vaccine that’s available would not be available to us probably earlier would be November and for us that’s what my goal would be,” said Knightly.

Knightly says they’ll need permission from the USDA and the state veterinarian before they begin vaccinating.

Knightly says none of the animals are symptomatic and says the vaccine would come directly from Zoetis, the company manufacturing it. She says it would be a two dose process and hope they can hand inject the animals.

“I’m very hopefully that we’re gonna have a list of animals that literally the vaccine process might be even easier than it is in some people,” said Knightly.

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