#WhatTheFAQ: What is the Made in India COVID-19 vaccine for pets all about?

It's called Anocovax and it could be a boon for your pet, cattle and other animals as well. This is all you need to know about it
Pet check | (Pic: EdexLive)
Pet check | (Pic: EdexLive)

Being a pet lover in the pandemic has been hard. While we have been able to inoculate ourselves, our pets have been a constant worry. But now, we might have to worry less. 

India launched its first COVID-19 vaccine for animals called Anocovax. It will help protect animals against both the Delta and Omicron variants of the virus. With India facing the chances of COVID's fourth wave, this comes as mighty good news.

But what is the vaccine all about and do other countries have something similar? We are here with answers to all your question with What The FAQ. 

Who launched the vaccine and how was it developed?
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar launched India's first COVID-19 vaccine for animals, Anocovax, on June 9, 2022. This homegrown vaccine was developed by Haryana-based ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines. The vaccine is an inactivated form of SARS-CoV-Delta (COVID-19) virus. 

“It is due to the untiring contributions of scientists that the country stands self-reliant in developing its own vaccines rather than importing. This is really a big achievement,” Tomar said after the virtual launch of the COVID-19 vaccine.

But can animals catch COVID and pass it on to humans?
Oh, yes. The University of Florida conducted a study. And on the basis of this study, scientists had found evidence that, indeed, a few variants of Coronavirus, which were initially noted to infect animals only, have jumped the species barrier and are now spreading from pigs and dogs to humans.

Studies have also noted that those humans infected with this virus, transferred from animals, show mild symptoms and fever. Hence, it suggested that these strains do not pose such a significant threat to us humans. 

But the possibility of mutation cannot be ruled out which will result in new and more powerful strains. This, in turn, can have adverse effects on the health of humans. 

Have animals tested positive in India? 
Yes, there have been many instances. Like in May 2021, eight Asiatic lions in a zoo in Hyderabad were tested positive for COVID. Signs of respiratory distress were also observed.

In Gujarat, Coronavirus was detected in dogs, cows and buffaloes too, according to a study titled Surveillance and molecular characterization of SARS-CoV-2 in non-human hosts in Gujarat.

Another instance was when two lions died from the infection at a zoo near Chennai. Ten other lions caught the virus, with two aged lionesses becoming critically ill before recovering.

Is the vaccine safe for all animals?
Anocovax contains Alhydrogel as an adjuvant, it can be administered only to dogs, leopards, lions, mice and rabbits. It is developed for them and it is safe.

Along with the vaccine, wasn't there an antibody detection kit that was launched as well?
Besides Anocovax, the institute also developed a kit to detect antibodies in animals against SARS-CoV-2. CAN-CoV-2-ELISA kit is a sensitive and specific nucleocapsid protein-based indirect kit. This antibody detection kit is indigenously made in India and a patent has also been filed for it. There are no laboratory animals required for the preparation of the antigens. Also, no other comparable kits for the detection of antibodies are available in the market to date.

The minister also launched the Surra Elisa kit, a suitable diagnostic assay, in order to cure haemoprotozoan diseases in multiple animals which are caused by Trypanosoma evansi. In India, this disease is manifested in agro-climatic parts. As a result, losses to livestock productivity were estimated to be around Rs 44,740 million annually, due to Sarra. 

Equine DNA parentage testing kit, which is a powerful genomic technology for parentage analysis among horses, was also launched.

Are COVID-19 vaccines for animals available in other countries?
On March 30, 2021, Russia became the first country to come up with a COVID-19 vaccine for animals. Cats, dogs, minx, foxes and other animals could be administered this vaccine, called Carnivak-Cov. It was developed by Russia’s agriculture oversight agency Rosselkhoznadzor.

According to Russian scientists, the use of this vaccine could prevent virus mutations in animals. The mass production of Carnivak-Cov started in April 2021 and the testing on animals began in October. Several countries like Greece, Poland, Austria, the United States, Canada and Singapore have shown their interest in it.

However, the US had started to work on animal vaccines in 2020, when the virus was first detected in a Hong Kong canine. The US-based pharma firm Zoetis began developing a COVID-19 vaccine for dogs and cats, and came up with an experimental vaccine in March 2021.

The vaccine was first administered to Karen, an orangutan at the San Diego Zoo in California. Later in August, 48 animals including tigers, bears, baboons, hyenas, chimpanzees, and a mountain lion were given the same vaccine in a zoo in Oakland. The number of animals who took this vaccine went up to 260 in December. So far, Zoetis has donated thousands of its COVID-19 vaccine doses for animals to zoos and animal sanctuaries in 13 countries.

No other country seems to have come up with other vaccines for animals.

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