Nine great apes at San Diego Zoo have been given an experimental coronavirus vaccine after several gorillas caught the virus earlier this year.
Five bonobos and four orangutans became the first great apes at a US zoo to be given the jabs in February - each receiving two doses of the vaccine that has been developed by a veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis.
CTV News reports that three more bonobos and a gorilla are also expected to receive the vaccine.
Speaking to National Geographic, 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."
The decision to give the animals the jabs came after a troop of eight gorillas tested positive for Covid-19.
One 49-year-old silverback became poorly with heart disease and pneumonia, but was given an experimental antibody treatment and is now recovered - as are the others.
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."
The vaccine, which is not suitable for humans, could be used on mink, cats and dogs, if it gets approval from regulators.
Zoetis says preliminary studies show 'the vaccine has been demonstrated to be safe and have a reasonable expectation of efficacy'.
Dr. Mahesh Kumar, senior vice president of global biologics at Zoetis said: "We are proud to be able to assist the San Diego Zoo Global veterinary staff and the animals in their care with their recent COVID-19 concerns.
"It's a great demonstration of how our CTED team can apply our capabilities to emerging infectious diseases, adapt quickly to shifting market needs, and play an important role in promoting public health by advancing animal care."
Zoetis told National Geographic that other US zoos had since been in touch to request vaccines for their own great apes, with a spokesperson telling the news outlet they expect to have more available by June.
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