ASHEBORO, N.C. — Gorillas, chimpanzees and some big cats got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the North Carolina Zoo. 

What You Need To Know

  • The North Carolina Zoo is vaccinating 33 of its primates and big cats

  • The vaccine is manufactured by Zoetis, and is specifically designed for animals

  • The animals got their first dose in mid-October, and will receive their second in early November

The zoo received 66 doses of the vaccine, specifically designed for animals, in mid-October. Director of Animal Health Jb Minter, says the team of animal keepers is vaccinating 33 animals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons, lions, mountain lions and a sand cat. 

While the North Carolina Zoo has not seen any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its animals, other zoos across the nation have seen serious cases, especially in big cats. Minter says vaccinating the animals is a preventative measure. 

“There’s always the concern that we didn’t put any thought into this, and we’re jumping ahead of the game. That’s not necessarily the case. We’ve put a lot of research into these vaccines. And again, there are cases out there where animals are becoming very, very sick,” Minter said. 

San Diego Zoo was the first to receive vaccinations for its animals in March 2021, donated by its manufacturer, Zoetis. Other zoos quickly put their names on the list to receive doses of the vaccine, including the North Carolina Zoo. The animals received their first shot in mid-October, and will receive their second in early November. 

“Any type of protection we can provide for them so that they can live long, healthy lives, is something that I’m going to be looking into very diligently, very strongly, so the vaccine was the right choice for us,” Minter said. 

Minter says no animals had to be darted or tranquilized to receive their vaccine.

Animal keepers trained gorillas, baboons and chimps to put out their arm to willingly get their shot. Some animals had a vaccine reaction similar to humans, Minter says, with all four baboons and two chimps showing arm tenderness and fatigue in the days following their first doses.

Minter and the team continue to keep an eye on their animals.