OAKLAND (KRON) – The Oakland Zoo was the first Zoo in the country to receive a shipment from Zoetis, who have been authorized for experimental vaccine by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In total, 11,000 doses are being donated to more than 100 mammalian species living in nearly 70 zoos.

Tigers, Black bears, Grizzly bears, Mountain lions and ferrets were the first to receive their first of two doses in Oakland.

Next up are primates, fruit bats, and pigs.

“Up until now, we have been using public barriers at certain habitats to ensure social distancing, along with enhanced PPE worn by staff to protect our susceptible species from COVID-19,” said Dr. Alex Herman,VP of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo. “We’re happy and relieved to now be able to better protect our animals with this vaccine, and are very thankful to Zoetis for not only creating it, but for donating it to us and dozens of other AZA-accredited zoos across the U.S.”

Although the virus – or antigen – is the same as in human vaccines, vaccines for animals vary based on the carrier – or adjuvant – that is used.  The unique combination of antigen and carrier ensures safety for the species.

“When the first dog was infected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong last year, we immediately began to work on a vaccine that could be used in domestic animals, and in eight months we completed our initial safety studies, which we presented at the World One Health Congress last year. While thankfully a COVID-19 vaccine is not needed in pets or livestock at this time, we are proud that our work can help zoo animals at risk of COVID-19,” said Mahesh Kumar, Senior Vice President, Global Biologics at Zoetis. “More than ever before, the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the important connection between animal health and human health, and we continue to monitor for emerging infectious diseases that can impact animals as well as people.”

Zoetis has also developed and validated feline and canine-specific real-time diagnostic tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).