"World First" COVID-19 Vaccine For Animals Registered In Russia, But Will Your Pet Need A Shot?

Researcher in Russia about to inject a rabbit with 'Karnivak-Kov' vaccine against COVID-19 for animals, developed by the Federal Center for Animal Health. Image credit: Vetandlife.ru

Russia has registered the "world’s first" veterinary vaccine against COVID-19 for animals.

Named Carnivac-Kov, the shot was developed by the Federal Center for Animal Health (FGBI ), an arm of the Russian veterinary healthy authority Rosselkhoznadzor. According to an announcement this week, the agency said the vaccine is now ready for mass production, set to make around 10 thousand doses per day. 

Carnivac-Cov will be commercially available in Russia, and the vaccination course of two doses will cost 588 rubles ($7.72)

Preclinical studies of the vaccine began in August 2020 involving 130 minks, 130 cats, 130 dogs, and 130 ferrets, followed by further trials in October involving cats, dogs, and a range of other fur-bearing animals. By all accounts, the trials were a success, although no data on the research has been publicly released. 

“The clinical trials… which started in October last year, involved dogs, cats, arctic foxes, minks, foxes and other animals. The results of the research allow us to conclude that the vaccine is harmless and its high immunogenic activity, since all tested vaccinated animals in 100% of cases developed antibodies to coronavirus,” Konstantin Savenkov, Deputy Head of Rosselkhoznadzor, said in a statement

A number of great apes at San Diego Zoo in the US have recently received vaccinations against COVID-19, but this shot is still considered experimental and has not been registered for widespread veterinary use. The vaccine was developed by Zoetis, a US-based pharmaceutical company, who initially developed the jab with dogs and cats in mind. It’s unclear whether this veterinary vaccine will be made commercially available in the near future. 

The question is: do pet owners need to vaccinate their animals? The short answer is probably not. While the option will be there for pet owners in Russia, there is no urgent need to vaccinate pet animals from a public health perspective. Besides anything else, the vaccine will not be widely available outside of Russia.

A number of different animals have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 around the world, the virus responsible for COVID-19. At least 115 cats, 81 dogs, 27 captive big cats, and at least 3 captive gorillas have been confirmed to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 as of March 2, 2021, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Some preliminary studies have also suggested the new variants SARS-CoV-2 may trigger heart problems in pet cats and dogs. 

However, there are relatively few reports of pets falling seriously ill with the infection. Furthermore, it’s thought that dogs and cats do not play an important role in transmitting the virus to humans.

The veterinary vaccine, however, could be very useful when dealing with mink. Over 419 mink farms globally have reported a COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the cramped conditions of the fur farms, it’s very easy for the virus to race through the mink population once it has entered. It’s also been apparent for some time that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted from mink to human. 

In November 2020, nearly 17 million mink were culled in Denmark in an attempt to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s hoped that a successful veterinary vaccine, such as Carnivac-Cov, could potentially help avoid such drastic measures in the future. 

 


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