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Saint Louis Zoo begins vaccinating at-risk animals against COVID-19

Jimiyu, a 29-year-old chimp, received his first dose of Zoetis

ST. LOUIS — Not only is there a push to get people to roll up their sleeves for protection against COVID-19, but now animals are also in the discussion.

On Wednesday, the Saint Louis Zoo has vaccinated its first animal, a male chimpanzee named Jimiyu.

You may be wondering, which shot did Jimiyu get? It's not one of the vaccines humans receive. Instead, he was vaccinated with Zoetis, which has been authorized for use on animals on a case-by-case, experimental basis.

MORE: No, veterinarians are not giving pets the COVID-19 vaccine

“We are very fortunate to partner with Zoetis and have access to this vaccine as an added layer of protection to keep our animals healthy,” said Dr. Luis Padilla, the zoo's vice president of animal collections. “As we welcome this animal vaccine, we will continue to emphasize that prioritizing the health of our staff remains the best tool to keep our animals healthy."

Over the next few months, the zoo plans to administer the two-dose coronavirus vaccine in a staged roll-out to almost 100 primates, big cats, river otters, painted dogs and bat-eared foxes. All of these animals carry a potential risk of being infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the deadly COVID-19 disease. 

Doses are given three weeks apart and full vaccination is reached two weeks after the second dose.

The 29-year-old chimp received the vaccine during a regularly scheduled veterinary exam that included cardiac and dental checkups under anesthesia. No adverse side effects are expected, according to vets.

A milestone in the fight against COVID-19! On Wednesday, male chimpanzee Jimiyu was the first Saint Louis Zoo animal...

Posted by Saint Louis Zoo on Thursday, September 30, 2021

"Preventive health is most of what we do here. As with every vaccine we administer, we first determine risk of exposure, risk of illness from the disease, and potential vaccine side-effects," said Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai, director of animal health at the Saint Louis Zoo.

There has not been an animal at the Saint Louis Zoo that has tested positive for COVID-19.