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It’s not just people taking the jab as a protective measure against COVID-19.

Cheetahs, lions and leopards at Maryland Zoo are also getting the shot as part of a study to determine the antibody levels of animals vaccinated against SARS CoV-2.

The goal? To come up with the best protocol for protecting these large felines from the virus.

“For reasons we do not yet fully understand, SARS CoV-2 appears to affect some non-domestic cat species more than other animals, so protecting endangered cat species in zoos from this virus in a science-based fashion is vital to providing them with optimal care,” Dr. Ellen Bronson, the senior director of Animal Health, Conservation & Research at the Maryland Zoo, told Patch.

The national study is organized by the Felid Taxon Advisory Group from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and by Dr. Bronson.

Find out what’s happening in Across Maryland with free, real-time updates from Patch.

According to Bronson, several dozen zoos across the country accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are also taking part in the ongoing study.

“There is a lot more we need to learn about this disease in both humans and animals, and this and other studies will hopefully aid in that improved knowledge,” Bronson said.

At the moment, it’s not clear how many large cats from the Maryland Zoo will ultimately take part in the vaccination process.

“We don’t have exact numbers yet because the study is ongoing,” Bronson said.

Zoo officials said vaccinating the big felines requires incentivizing them first with milk to get “the animal into place.” When they are then properly positioned, a door opens so the tail can be pulled through to draw blood.

 

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