Veterinary COVID-19 vaccine for zoo animals in Australia


The Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA) and Adelaide biotech company, Vaxine Pty Ltd have worked together to make a veterinary COVID-19 vaccine available for use in zoo animals in Australia.

The veterinary animal vaccine, known as SpikeVet, is based on technology used for Vaxine’s human COVAX-19 vaccine and will be made available to ZAA-accredited zoos.

“We explored a range of options to vaccinate our zoo animals and this option was selected considering both safety and potential effectiveness,” said Dr David McLelland, Co-Convenor of the ZAA Veterinary Advisory Group.

“While COVID-19 vaccines for animals have also been developed overseas, it is more feasible to use a locally made vaccine, particularly one that has already been shown to be safe and effective in a broad range of animal species.”

SpikeVet vaccine has an optimised formulation appropriate for animals of very different sizes and is designed to protect against all the major SARS-CoV-2 variants including the Omicron variants.

Vaxine Chairman and Research Director, Professor Nikolai Petrovsky said that their synthetic protein-based vaccine technology is the perfect option for zoo animals, as it has already been shown to be safe and effective across a number of animal models. Vaxine is very familiar with the veterinary environment having developed a successful cancer vaccine for dogs as well as a vaccine against kennel cough in collaboration with a European veterinary company.

“Our COVID-19 vaccine technology was designed with safety front of mind,” said Prof. Petrovsky.  

“The aim has always been to provide the broadest possible protection with the highest possible safety.”

Zoos around Australia welcome the opportunity to provide an extra layer of protection for those species known to be susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

“Strict biosecurity practices have prevented any known cases of COVID-19 in zoo animals in Australia so far,” said Nicola Craddock, Executive Director of ZAA.

“But many Australian zoos will be pleased to be able to add the extra protection of a vaccine to animals like big cats and primates, many of which are threatened species.

“This will be especially important as we continue to live with COVID-19 in Australia.”

Not every zoo animal will need the vaccine, each zoo needs to conduct a case-by-case risk assessment based on their site, chances of exposure, animal care processes and susceptible species. Some animals may receive their vaccination over time during routine veterinary examinations.

The zoo vaccine has been used first at zoos registered as research institutions, with no adverse effects in any animals. ZAA is working on a permit with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to make the vaccine available to ZAA-accredited zoos more broadly.

ZAA continues to work closely with vets in Aotearoa New Zealand to explore options to vaccinate animals at ZAA-accredited zoos across the Tasman.


About the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA)

As a peak body, the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia (ZAA) represents the collective voice of the zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries and wildlife parks across Australasia that operate to the highest standards.

Using the science-based Five Domains Model, ZAA accredits zoos and aquariums for positive animal welfare. It also leads over 100 breeding programs and contributes to conservation and threatened species recovery in Australasia and around the world. The ZAA Veterinary Advisory Group is a network of experienced zoo vets, which has worked closely to make a veterinary COVID-19 vaccine accessible by zoos in Australia.  

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About Vaxine

Vaxine Pty Ltd is a 20-year-old Adelaide-based biotechnology veteran with deep expertise in vaccine development. In response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, Vaxine developed the first swine flu vaccine in the world to enter human clinical trials. The team has also developed SARS and MERS coronavirus vaccines that successfully protected animal models against these deadly coronaviruses.

At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak the Vaxine team used computer modelling to design a synthetic spike protein vaccine based on the earlier successful SARS and MERS coronavirus vaccines. This Covid-19 vaccine was shown to be safe and effective in mice, ferrets, cats and monkeys with similar positive findings being seen in extensive human clinical trial testing, and in October 2021 received its first approval for use in Iran.  In addition to its successful Covid-19 program, Vaxine continues to pursue multiple other vaccine candidates including against influenza, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, cancer and allergy.