Why Are We Vaccinating Skunks Before Humans?

You know the answer.

This skunk probably isn't vaccinated, but others now are. Tayfun Coskun/Getty

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Florida skunks at a Tampa Bay zoo are getting COVID-19 vaccines before most humans on the planet have received their first shot. The location of this vaccination campaign is particularly striking given the antipathy to vaccine mandates often articulated by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has threatened local governments with millions of dollars in fines if they require their employees to get their shots.

The animals at ZooTampa—which has recorded no COVID-19 cases among its animals—and other zoos across the United States are not receiving one of the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines that have been approved for human use in the United States. Instead, they are getting an experimental vaccine developed by the veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis.

To provide some global context: In Haiti, just 0.6 percent of people have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a New York Times vaccine tracker. In Congo, that figure stands at 0.1 percent. In Florida, not including residents of ZooTampa, 72 percent among those 12 and up. Among the creatures at ZooTampa? About 33 percent.

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