A group of researchers claims that cats and dogs may eventually need to get their own Covid-19 vaccines to prevent the coronavirus from “spilling” back to humans.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the dreaded COVID-19, had been detected on animals including cats, dogs, minks, tigers and gorillas.
While scientists don’t think animals play a significant role in spreading the virus, they may pose a risk to humans down the road.
According to a new editorial published in the journal Virulence, there is the potential for the virus to evolve in those species and spread back to people.
“The risk is that, as long as there are these reservoirs, that it starts to pass … from animal to animal, and then starts to evolve animal-specific strains,” said Kevin Tyler, editor-in-chief of Virulence and co-author of the editorial.
He added that the strains could “spill back into the human population and you end up essentially with a new virus which is related, which causes the whole thing all over again.”
“It is not unthinkable that vaccination of some domesticated animal species might also be necessary to curb the spread of the infection,” the authors wrote.
The authors clarified that they are not calling for vaccinating dogs and cats against COVID-19 at the moment, rather proposes the idea to be considered.
“It is important to stress that we are not seeing onward transmission in cats (or dogs) at the moment and there is no need for owners to consider vaccinating [their pets] right now, but we should be prepared for that as a possibility at some stage,” said Tyler.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not currently granting approvals for licenses for COVID-19 pet vaccines, noting that the research does not indicate its value.
“Companies are still free to do research and development on these vaccines … but without a license, they can’t sell or distribute them,” said USDA spokesperson Joelle Hayden.
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