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Thursday, August 11, 2022

India’s first Covid-19 vaccine for animals: why the need was felt

This is the first Covid-19 vaccine for animals developed in India. There were reports from Russia last year that that country, too, had developed a vaccine against animals such as dogs, cats, minks, and foxes.

Written by Anonna Dutt | New Delhi |
Updated: June 11, 2022 12:40:23 pm
The virus that causes Covid-19 can spread from people to animals during close contact, says the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Agriculture Ministry on Thursday unveiled India’s first Covid-19 vaccine for animals. Developed by the Hisar-based National Research Centre on Equines, the vaccine, called Ancovax, can protect animals against the Delta and Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2.

HOW IT WORKS: Ancovax can be used in dogs, lions, leopards, mice, and rabbits. It is an inactivated vaccine developed using an infectious part of the Delta variant. In addition, it uses Alhydrogel as an adjuvant to boost the immune response.

This is the first Covid-19 vaccine for animals developed in India. There were reports from Russia last year that that country, too, had developed a vaccine against animals such as dogs, cats, minks, and foxes.

THE NEED: There have been reports of Covid-19 infection in several animals, including dogs and cats. “The vaccine can protect animals in the zoo. It can also prevent transmission from companion animals to the humans,” said Dr Jyoti Misri, senior scientist, Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

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The risk of animals spreading the infection to humans is considered low, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The aim of the vaccine is to protect endangered animals such as lions and tigers. India reported at least nine Covid infections in Asiatic lions in Chennai zoo last year, with one of the lioness likely to have died of it. This prompted closure of tiger reserves for tourism. Other than that, a study by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute found at least three natural Covid infections in wild Asiatic lions, and a dead leopard cub was found dead and then tested positive for Covid-19.

“There have been a few cases reported in wildlife across the world, some from the zoo, and some in pets. However, percentage-wise, it is very low. The animals develop similar symptoms to humans – cough, cold, fever, and lung lesions. However, since the disease is zoonotic [it can be transmitted from animals to humans], a vaccine would help. However, which vaccine we use has to be carefully decided,” said Dr AB Shrivastav, former director, School of Wildlife Forensic and Heath, Jabalpur.

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WHY TYPE MATTERS: While declining to comment on this vaccine specifically, Dr Shrivastav said a killed vaccine for wild animals is always better than a live-attenuated vaccine (where a weakened live virus is used).

“We avoid live vaccine in wild animals. This is because a live vaccine might have been attenuated for one particular species, but it can still cause disease in another. Some 15 or 20 years back, a rabies vaccine developed for dogs was given to wolves in Africa and unfortunately the entire pack died. A killed virus vaccine will not harm the animals,” he said.

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First published on: 10-06-2022 at 08:48:08 pm
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