Great Apes at the San Diego Zoo Have Now Been Vaccinated Against COVID-19

An Orangutan is seen at Ragunan Zoo's
Photo by Dimas Ardian /Getty Images

Eight apes at the San Diego Zoo made medical history as the first non-human to receive the experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

Several apes at the San Diego Zoo made medical history as the first non-humans to receive the experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

One orangutan named Karen was given two doses of the vaccine. Karen made medical history once before when she became the first ape in the world to receive open-heart surgery in 1994, National Geographic reported.

Three other orangutans and five bonobos at the zoo were also given the vaccines.

“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,” Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation wildlife and health officer at the zoo told the outlet.

At the start of this year, eight gorillas at the zoo tested positive for the coronavirus. They were among the first in the world to catch the virus. All of them have now fully recovered.

Lamberski says vaccinating the apes was well worth the risk. They have responded well to the shots, she says, and will soon be tested for antibodies.

Other zoos across the U.S. have reportedly requested doses of the vaccine for their own apes, a spokesperson for the veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis told National Geographic. 

The company is working on experimental vaccines for dogs and cats.