Great apes given Covid vaccine after outbreak at zoo

Jesse Williams

By Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams

7 Mar 2021

A total of nine great apes at the San Diego Zoo have been given an experimental coronavirus vaccine after several gorillas fell ill to the virus at the start of the year. 

Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company administered the experimental jabs, not fit for human use, to four orangutans and five bonobos.

The Zoetis jab prior to this had only been tested on cats and dogs. CTV News reports that three more bonobos and a gorilla are now also expected to receive the vaccine.

Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance said: “This isn’t the norm. In my career, I haven’t had access to an experimental vaccine this early in the process and haven’t had such an overwhelming desire to want to use one.”

Eight gorillas tested positive for Covid-19 with one silverback suffering with heart disease and pneumonia. All have now since recovered.

Speaking to the San Diego Union-Tribune Lamberski said: “That made us realise that our other apes were at risk. We wanted to do our best to protect them from this virus because we don’t really know how it’s going to impact them.”