Pets

Why Don’t We Have a Covid Vaccine for Pets? – The New York Times

Summary

Over the past year, coronavirus vaccines have gone into billions of human arms — and into the fuzzy haunches of an ark’s worth of zoo animals. Jaguars are getting the jab. Bonobos are being dosed. So are orangutans and otters, ferrets and fruit bats, and, of course, lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!).

Largely left behind, however, are two creatures much closer to home: domestic cats and dogs.

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Over the past year, coronavirus vaccines have gone into billions of human arms — and into the fuzzy haunches of an ark’s worth of zoo animals. Jaguars are getting the jab. Bonobos are being dosed. So are orangutans and otters, ferrets and fruit bats, and, of course, lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!).

Largely left behind, however, are two creatures much closer to home: domestic cats and dogs.

Pet owners have noticed.

“I get so many questions about this issue,” Dr. Elizabeth Lennon, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania, said. “Will there be a vaccine? When will there be a vaccine?”

Technically, a pet vaccine is feasible. In fact, several research teams say that they have already developed promising cat or dog vaccines; the shots that zoo animals are receiving were initially designed for dogs.

But vaccinating pets is simply not a priority, experts said. Although dogs and cats can catch the virus, a growing body of evidence suggests that Fluffy and Fido play little to no role in its spread — and rarely fall ill themselves.

“A vaccine is quite unlikely, I think, for dogs and cats,” Dr. Will Sander, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said. “The risk of disease spread and illness in pets is so low that any vaccine would not be worth giving.”

In February 2020, a woman in Hong Kong was diagnosed with Covid-19. Two other people in her home soon tested positive for the virus, as did one unexpected member of the household: an elderly Pomeranian. The 17-year-old dog was the first pet known to catch the virus.

But not the last. A German shepherd in Hong Kong soon tested positive, too, as did cats in Hong Kong, Belgium and New York. The cases were exceedingly mild — the animals had few or no symptoms — and experts concluded that humans had spread the virus to the pets, rather than vice versa.

“To date, there hasn’t been any documented cases of dogs or cats spreading the virus to people,” Dr. Lennon said.

But the prospect of a pet pandemic sparked interested in an animal vaccine. Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey, began working on one as soon as they heard about the Hong Kong Pomeranian.

“We figured, ‘Wow, this could become serious, so let’s start working on a product,’” Mahesh Kumar, a senior vice president at Zoetis who leads vaccine development, said.

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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/health/coronavirus-vaccine-cats-dogs-pets.html