Russia has produced a batch of the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for animals, the country’s agriculture regulator announced Friday, which could help prevent dangerous mutations emerging, protect vulnerable animals and support animal-driven industries, such as mink fur farming, that have been crippled by the pandemic.
17,000 doses of the Carnivac-Cov vaccine have been produced at Russia’s Federal Center for Animal Health, the agriculture regulator said Friday.
The initial batch will be distributed across several Russian regions, it said, with companies from countries including Germany, Poland, Kazakhstan, Thailand and South Korea having expressed interest in purchasing future doses.
It is unclear what animals are expected to receive the first batch—Forbes has reached out to the regulator for comment—though the vaccine was registered in March after tests showed responses in dogs, cats, mink and foxes.
The watchdog said it was in the process of preparing an application to register the vaccine in other countries around the world, notably the European Union.
While a vaccine for animals may not seem like a priority in the midst of a pandemic where many humans do not have access to them, safeguarding animal populations is an important aspect of long-term disease control. The virus responsible for Covid-19 is, experts believe, highly likely to have spilled over into humans from animals, which has happened with many major diseases including influenza (flu), Ebola and HIV. Humans are also capable of spreading the disease to animals—including pets, like cats and dogs, and agricultural animals, like mink—where dangerous mutations can possibly develop and spread back into humans.
The U.K., which monitors cases of Covid-19 in some animals, reported two instances of cats seeming to have caught the virus from their owners. One, a four-month-old kitten, died after developing breathing difficulties. While there is no evidence that domestic animals can transmit the virus to humans, scientists warned of the need to monitor transmission in case they can act as a “viral reservoir.”