PHOENIX — The Phoenix Zoo is one step closer to protecting other creatures from COVID-19. The zoo now working to vaccinate some of its animals against the virus, administering an experimental vaccine to protect endangered species.

Some of the zoo’s most susceptible animals have already received one of two doses of the Zoetis SARA-CoV-2 vaccine, including the big cats, some of the primates and more. They’re also vaccinating animals like their Egyptian fruit bats, armadillos, sloths and more.

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Phoenix Zoo

Dr. Gary West, The Senior Vice President of Animal Health and Living Conditions at The Phoenix Zoo says they have vaccinated 75 different animals against COVID-19.

“There’s been numerous cases in zoos starting in March 2020, so that’s what got us most concerned about protecting our animals,” Dr. West said.

When it comes to larger animals like tigers, Dr. West and his team use darts to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine for animals is different than FDA approved human vaccines.

“This vaccine is an antigen, or part of a virus that is inactivated. It stimulates your immune system to make antibodies against a portion or a surface protein of the virus to protect the animal,” West said.

Along with tigers, the other big cats, primates, certain bats, armadillos and sloths at the zoo are vaccinated.

“There’s been a lot of cases that are popping up in large cats in zoos and even great apes, so this is another opportunity to sort of protect those animals,” West concludes.

Dr. West tells ABC15 only two animals have had mild side effects.

The zoo will give out second doses in three weeks.

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