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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

NC Zoo Will Start Vaccinating Animals For COVID-19

Feeding Times Gorilla-1.jpg
Courtesy North Carolina Zoo
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Zookeepers with the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro say they're expecting a shipment of experimental COVID-19 vaccines specially designed for animals this month, allowing them to start vaccinating some of the animals in their care.

The zoo's primates will be first in line for the shots, said Dr. Jb Minter, director of animal health at the North Carolina Zoo.

"We were only able to get enough for our gorillas and chimps, and that's two doses. It's a two-dose series, just like a lot of the vaccines that the humans are using," Minter said.

The first shipment is expected to arrive by the end of July, and the second shipment will arrive sometime after.

Minter said the second shipment will provide enough doses for zookeepers to vaccinate some of the zoo's lions, sand cats, cougars, bobcats, red wolves and bears.

No COVID-19 cases have been reported among the animals at the North Carolina Zoo so far, although they are at risk of contracting the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The animal vaccines were donated and developed by the veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis. The company said in a news release that it had developed more than 11,000 doses of the experimental vaccine, and is donating them to nearly 70 zoos, as well as "more than a dozen" conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions and government organizations in 27 states.

Several zoos have already received shipments and begun vaccinating their residents, including the Denver Zoo, the Oakland Zoo and the San Diego Zoo, where a troop of gorillas became infected in January, possibly from an asymptomatic zookeeper.

Other wildlife facilities that have reported COVID-19 outbreaks include the Bronx Zoo, where several lions and tigers contracted the virus in April 2020.

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Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.