By vaccinating great apes and other animals against SARS-CoV-2, the hopes is to prevent the disease from being passed between humans and animals and back again, NPR reports.
In January, a number of western lowland gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were thought to have caught COVID-19 from an asymptomatic zoo worker. Other animals including lions, tigers, and mink have also had positive COVID-19 tests and a number of mink in Denmark were culled to prevent the spread of the strain infecting them. San Diego Zoo officials, meanwhile, vaccinated nine great apes as another means of preventing disease spread. The vaccine the four orangutans and five bonobos received, National Geographic noted at the time, was an experimental vaccine developed by a veterinary pharmaceutical company.
As the Guardian also now reports, Zoetis, the firm developing the veterinary vaccine, is developing the vaccine especially for mink, but says that it will also indirectly help people. "We know clearly that the mink in Denmark were able to pass the virus back to humans. The mink contributed some changes to the virus so we are obviously concerned about the spillover back into the humans from the mink," Mahesh Kumar, a senior vice president at Zoetis, tells it. "So by protecting the mink, it prevents the spillover back into the human population."