A new life-saving Covid-19 vaccine aimed at saving zoo animals is being shipped around the world right now, but it all started in Kalamazoo.

Zoetis says it's donating more than 11,000 doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine to help protect more than 100 mammal species that are housed in about 70 zoos, but also in more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions and government organizations located in 27 states.

The USDA (United State Department of Agriculture) has authorized approved veterinarians to administer this vaccine for experimental use and on a case by case basis.

What's a source of pride (pardon the lion pun) locally is that the vaccine was developed in Kalamazoo.

Zoetis’ research and development team, headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, applied decades of experience developing other coronavirus vaccines for cats, dogs, poultry and cattle. Zoetis’ COVID-19 vaccine is uniquely formulated for animal species. 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 and efficacy for the species in which a vaccine is used. To further support veterinarians’, Zoetis also developed and validated feline and canine-specific real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). - Zoetis release.

Two California Zoos were the first to receive the vaccines, the San Diego Zoo and the Oakland Zoo. Zoetis says the first animals to get shots were tigers, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions and ferrets were the first to receive their first of two doses. Up next will be primates, including chimpanzees, fruit bats, and pigs.

Zoetis goes on to say it began working on this animal vaccine just after the first dog was shown to have the virus. But what's scary, according to the World Health Organization, "at least 75% of emerging infectious diseases have an animal origin, including COVID-19."

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