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Do Cats And Dogs Need To Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19?

Experts warn continued evolution of virus in animals followed by transmission to humans "poses significant long-term risk to public health"

As the COVID-19 vaccines continue to be rolled out worldwide—with Australia’s rollout expected to be announced in the coming weeks—the next question to stop the spread of the virus lies with our pets. Do our cats and dogs need to be vaccinated against COVID-19? 

Following Denmark’s cull of mink, with more than 2 million put down after posing a potential COVID risk, experts have suggested that domestic pets, namely cats and dogs, may need to be vaccinated in order to curb its transmission. 

In an editorial for the journal Virulence, researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA), a Norwich-based research facility the Earlham Institute, and the University of Minnesota, say animal transmission of the virus “poses a significant long-term risk to public health.”

“It is not unthinkable that vaccination of some domesticated animal species might be necessary to curb the spread of the infection,” the journal read. 

Cock van Oosterhout, professor of evolutionary genetics, said although dogs and cats can contract coronavirus, there are no known cases of them passing it on to humans, per 7News.

“It makes sense to develop vaccines for pets, for domestic animals, just as a precaution to reduce this risk,” he said. “What we need to be as a human society, we really need to be prepared for any eventuality when it comes to COVID.

“I think the best way to do this is indeed to consider the development of vaccines for animals as well.”

The researchers are not calling for domestic pets to be vaccinated at this stage though, but rather proposing the idea to be considered in the future. 

“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,” Kevin Tyler, editor-in-chief of Virulence and co-author of the editorial, told Live Science.

The authors also called on governments to continue implementing strict control measures, including masks and social distancing to reduce the evolution and spread of new COVID-19 strains.

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