The Phoenix Zoo is giving animals the COVID-19 vaccine

The Phoenix Zoo has started to give their animals the COVID-19 vaccine due to increasing cases among big cats, great apes and other species, officials confirmed.

Zoo officials say the decision was made months ago out of an "abundance of precaution," and that they have been using Zoetis, an "experimental" vaccine made specifically for animals that is not widely available yet. The vaccine was authorized for emergency use for endangered species.

In total, 75 animals have been vaccinated so far. Some big cats and primates, including the zoo's African lion, jaguars, bobcat, and Bornean orangutans received their second dose on Wednesday. 

Other vaccinated species include the Egyptian fruit bats, three-banded armadillo and the Linnes two-toes sloth. They were chosen based on their susceptibility to the disease.

Dr. Gary West with the Phoenix Zoo said none of the animals have experienced major reactions, but some species have shown some lethargy. However, they reportedly bounce back quickly from those side effects.

"I do sleep a little bit easier now that the vaccine is in…the big cats and our orangutans," West said. "I had major concerns for those species because we are seeing some significant disease and even mortalities in other zoos."

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