Do We Need a COVID-19 Vaccine for Pets?

Do We Need a COVID-19 Vaccine for Pets?

Although we get daily updates about hospitalizations, new infections, and deaths in our news cycle, it is essential to remember that COVID-19 isn’t exclusively a human problem. Since the earliest days of the pandemic, we’ve known that several animals are susceptible to the virus.

Cats and dogs are known to get sick with exposure, and lab conditions suggest that felines can transmit it to others in the same way as humans.

Outbreaks have also affected minks to the point where culling activities had to happen because of the risk of human infection.

With the arrival of human vaccines for the new coronavirus, is it time for us to start thinking about our animal companions? 

We Don’t Have an Urgent Need for a Pet COVID Vaccine

We don’t have a clear picture of the number of cats, dogs, and other animals who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The transmission rates in the animal kingdom could be quite similar to what they are for humans.

When pets have a confirmed case of COVID-19, their symptoms are typically mild. Many animals don’t have an adverse reaction to the virus. Since it doesn’t seem to be dangerous to most creatures, a vaccine isn’t an urgent need in 2021 from a public health standpoint. 

The USDA takes that idea a step further by saying that they’re not currently granting commercial licenses for such a product. When pressed for details, the agency said bluntly that a COVID-19 vaccine would have minimal value.

Companies can still research and develop COVID-19 vaccines for pets to see if a commercially viable product is possible. Without the USDA license, no one has the authority to sell or distribute the product.

What About COVID Vaccines for Non-Domesticated Animals

Researchers know that the new coronavirus can impact the lives of everything from sheep to sperm whales.

There is one animal in nature where COVID-19 vaccination could be helpful: the great apes.

Past human viruses that impact the respiratory system have proven fatal to gorillas and chimpanzees. As the new coronavirus spreads around Africa and Asia, legitimate concerns about the health of endangered species could lead to animal vaccines’ commercial development.

Other animals, such as the black-footed ferret, have an above-average risk factor for COVID-19 transmission. Administering vaccines to them, mink, squirrels, and other small rodents would reduce the risk of another virus mutation that could jump to people again – or have a massive impact on wildlife. 

Some experts still think that vaccinations are an extreme management option for animals. It might be better to evaluate how we handle commercial enterprises like mink farms and product research to prevent virus transmissions. 

What If We Already Have Vaccines for Animals?

Zoetis is a U.S. pharmaceutical company that has a potential vaccine ready for pets and mink. It uses a similar formula to Novavax’s approach to the human vaccinations that deliver a modified spike protein to generate an immune response. 

When this product was given to cats and dogs, their bodies developed a strong antigen response. Although it is unknown if it will protect them, the company is currently in talks with the USDA about a license to advance the program.

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