Helping wild animals through vaccination: could this happen for coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2?

Cross-posted from the An­i­mal Ethics blog.

Wild an­i­mals can suffer and die pre­ma­turely due to many fac­tors, in­clud­ing harm­ful weather con­di­tions, hunger, thirst and malnu­tri­tion, par­a­sitism, con­flicts, and ac­ci­dents.[1] One of these fac­tors, which painfully kills vast num­bers of an­i­mals, is dis­ease.[2]

For­tu­nately for many an­i­mals, how­ever, wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams have been con­ducted for decades already. For the most part, they have been im­ple­mented to pre­vent zoonotic dis­eases from spread­ing from non­hu­man an­i­mals to hu­mans (or to other an­i­mals hu­mans live with). But, re­gard­less of this, such pro­grams have pre­vented huge amounts of suffer­ing and saved the lives of many wild an­i­mals. Thor­ough vac­ci­na­tion efforts can even erad­i­cate a dis­ease by dras­ti­cally re­duc­ing the trans­mis­sion rate. For ex­am­ple, as we will see be­low, ra­bies has been elimi­nated from large ar­eas of North Amer­ica and Europe. Th­ese suc­cesses show that it would be fea­si­ble to im­ple­ment similar pro­grams out of a con­cern for an­i­mals them­selves. Scien­tists have shown sup­port for gain­ing more knowl­edge about this method of helping an­i­mals in the wild.[3]

The ex­tent to which some an­i­mals can suffer from differ­ent dis­eases has be­come promi­nent due to the pre­sent COVID-19 pan­demic. Many peo­ple now know that close con­tact be­tween an­i­mals, in­clud­ing hu­mans, pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for zoonoses, that is, for dis­eases to jump be­tween species. The elimi­na­tion of dis­ease reser­voirs, such as these among an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions, has typ­i­cally mo­ti­vated wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams.

A ques­tion that can there­fore arise is whether it might even­tu­ally be pos­si­ble to vac­ci­nate an­i­mals who are threat­ened by coro­n­aviruses like SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. It seems that if a vac­cine were suc­cess­fully de­vel­oped, there would be an in­cen­tive to do so, even for those car­ing only about hu­man health and not about an­i­mals, be­cause this mea­sure could pre­vent even­tual zoonotic in­fec­tions. But, as with other vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams, many non­hu­man an­i­mals would be sub­stan­tially helped by such a mea­sure.

Below we will ex­am­ine this ques­tion in more de­tail. We will first see some cases of suc­cess­ful vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams in the past, in­clud­ing vac­ci­na­tion against ra­bies, an­thrax, rinder­pest, bru­cel­losis, and syl­vatic plague, in ad­di­tion to the pro­posal to vac­ci­nate great apes against Ebola. Next, we will see how zoonotic epi­demics have been the ob­ject of grow­ing at­ten­tion.We will then see some re­sponses to them that are mis­guided and harm­ful to an­i­mals. We will then see the prospects for even­tual wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams against coro­n­aviruses like SARS-CoV-2. We will see the three main limi­ta­tions of such hy­po­thet­i­cal pro­grams. Th­ese are the lack of an effec­tive vac­cine, the lack of fund­ing to im­ple­ment the vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram, and the lack of an effec­tive sys­tem to ad­minister the vac­cine. We’ll con­sider the ex­tent to which these limi­ta­tions could be over­come and what clues pre­vi­ous ex­am­ples of vac­ci­na­tion can provide. As we will see, such pro­grams re­mains to date merely spec­u­la­tive. They could be fea­si­ble at some point as other wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams show. How­ever, it re­mains un­cer­tain whether there will be hu­man in­ter­est in im­ple­ment­ing them, de­spite the benefits for an­i­mals them­selves.

Fi­nally, we will see the rea­sons why, if im­ple­mented, pro­grams of this kind could sub­stan­tially help not just the vac­ci­nated an­i­mals, but many oth­ers as well. Not only would this pre­vent zoonotic dis­ease trans­mis­sion to other an­i­mals, but such mea­sures could also help in­form other efforts to vac­ci­nate an­i­mals liv­ing in the wild. More­over, each suc­cess­ful vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram helps to illus­trate that helping an­i­mals in the wild is not im­prac­ti­cal, but re­al­is­tic. This helps to raise con­cern for these an­i­mals and to in­spire ac­tion on their be­half.

Ex­am­ples of vac­ci­na­tion programs

Many peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how ex­ten­sively an­i­mals liv­ing in the wild have already been vac­ci­nated. Of course, this has hap­pened for only a tiny minor­ity of the huge num­ber of dis­eases that we could vac­ci­nate them for. How­ever, the vac­ci­na­tions have still had a very big im­pact for large num­bers of an­i­mals. Below are some ex­am­ples (more in­for­ma­tion is found on our page that gives an overview of wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tions).


Vac­ci­na­tion against ra­bies is prob­a­bly the best ex­am­ple of wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion, be­cause it is the one that has been car­ried out most ex­ten­sively, and for sev­eral decades already. Ra­bies causes great suffer­ing and al­most cer­tain death in the vic­tims it in­fects (re­gard­less of whether they are hu­man or non­hu­man an­i­mals). Some po­ten­tial symp­toms are fever, pain, tingling/​burn­ing sen­sa­tions, hy­dropho­bia, ag­gres­sion, con­fu­sion, and mus­cle paral­y­sis.[4] Vac­ci­na­tion for ra­bies has been im­ple­mented effec­tively through means such as the dis­per­sal of oral baits con­tain­ing the vac­cine from he­li­copters. By this method, it has already been mostly elimi­nated in large ar­eas in Europe and North Amer­ica.[5]

In the U.S., at­tempts to re­duce the spread of ra­bies be­gan in the 1970s. It has been es­ti­mated that one of these pro­grams vac­ci­nated close to two-thirds of the pop­u­la­tion of rac­coons in Mas­sachusetts.[6] Another pro­gram vac­ci­nated coy­otes in Texas and led to a large re­duc­tion in the num­ber of new cases.[7] It has been sug­gested that with the co­or­di­nated efforts of the USA, Canada, and Mex­ico it would be fea­si­ble to achieve the com­plete elimi­na­tion ra­bies in many other parts of North Amer­ica.[8]


An­thrax is spread by the bac­terium Bacillus an­thracis. The bac­te­ria re­lease spores that can cause in­fec­tions when they are in­haled, in­gested, or pass through an open wound. The spores are in­cred­ibly re­silient and can re­main in­fec­tious for years in the soil or in the body of an an­i­mal. Her­bivorous an­i­mals may in­gest spores while graz­ing and preda­tory an­i­mals may in­gest spores through the bod­ies of her­bivorous an­i­mals.

Once in­fected, symp­toms can in­clude high fever, mus­cle tremors, and difficulty in breath­ing. Out­breaks can lead to im­mense suffer­ing and death among an­i­mals. Among her­bivorous mam­mals, out­breaks can kill be­tween 21% and 51% of hip­pos and up to 90% of im­palas and ku­dos.[9] A 2016 out­break in Sibe­ria kil­led 2,300 rein­deers.[10]

For­tu­nately, in some cases, Guinea pigs, ze­bras, and rhinos have all suc­cess­fully been vac­ci­nated against an­thrax.[11] In one out­break in Eastern Africa, 53 ze­bras died from an­thrax. The re­main­ing 650 ze­bras were all vac­ci­nated and there were no fur­ther deaths.[12]


Rin­der­pest vac­ci­na­tion is an ex­am­ple of a great suc­cess story in the vac­ci­na­tion of an­i­mals. Rin­der­pest was an in­fec­tious viral dis­ease that harmed cows, bi­sons, wilde­beests, giraf­fes, an­telopes, warthogs, and other even-toed un­gu­lates. Symp­toms in­cluded fever, loss of ap­petite, discharge from the nose and eyes, con­sti­pa­tion fol­lowed by acute di­ar­rhea, and le­sions in the mouth, the lin­ing of the nose, and the gen­i­tal tract. Death would typ­i­cally fol­low in 6 to 12 days. In pre­vi­ously un­ex­posed pop­u­la­tions, the mor­tal­ity rate was close to 100%.[13] An out­break in the 1890s kil­led around 90% of the cows in south­ern and east­ern Africa, as well as many other an­i­mals.[14]

Be­cause an­i­mals ex­ploited by peo­ple were greatly harmed by the dis­ease, ac­tion was taken in this case that would likely not have been oth­er­wise. A huge num­ber of do­mes­ti­cated an­i­mals were vac­ci­nated against the dis­ease.

In June 2011, the World Or­gani­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health offi­cially an­nounced that the dis­ease had been erad­i­cated globally.[15] Though an­i­mals liv­ing in the wild were not vac­ci­nated, the dis­ease was still erad­i­cated, which con­tinues to pro­tect them from very se­vere harms. The benefit to wild an­i­mals was not in­ten­tional, but it was still greatly benefi­cial to them. As an ex­am­ple of this, con­sider that the pop­u­la­tion of wilde­beests on the Serengeti in 1957 was 100,000. In 1971, just 10 years af­ter the first vac­cine was de­vel­oped, the pop­u­la­tion had grown to 770,000.[16] This shows the huge amount of suffer­ing and death that the dis­ease must have been caus­ing these an­i­mals.


Bru­cel­losis is a con­ta­gious dis­ease spread by differ­ent bac­te­ria in the Bru­cella fam­ily. It pri­mar­ily dam­ages the re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem, lead­ing to stil­lbirths, birth defects, and other birthing com­pli­ca­tions. It can cause swelling of the tes­ti­cles in males. It can also af­fect the joints, caus­ing arthri­tis.[17]

An es­ti­mated 12.5 thou­sand elks and 2.5 thou­sand bi­sons within Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park are in­fected. To com­bat the dis­ease in this area, a vac­cine has been de­vel­oped for the bi­sons in that area.[18] Vac­ci­nat­ing bi­sons in this area is be­ing now dis­cussed, and this mea­sure would prob­a­bly im­prove their welfare and pre­vent their spread­ing the dis­eases to other an­i­mals.[19]

Syl­vatic plague

Syl­vatic plague is an in­fec­tious bac­te­rial dis­ease caused by the bac­terium Yersina pestis. This is the same bac­terium that is re­spon­si­ble for the bubonic plague in hu­mans. It causes out­breaks in an­i­mals such as fer­rets and prairie dogs.

Symp­toms can in­clude fever, de­hy­dra­tion, low en­ergy, lack of ap­petite, difficulty breath­ing, en­larged spleen, and swol­len lymph nodes.[20] The dis­ease is usu­ally fatal in prairie dogs.[21]

Out of con­ser­va­tion­ist con­cern for fer­rets, who were dy­ing be­cause they at­tack and eat prairie dogs, vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams were adopted. Once prairie dogs are vac­ci­nated, their sur­vival rate im­proves to 95%. Vac­ci­na­tion is done through oral baits rather than hy­po­der­mic darts, which makes the pro­cess faster and less in­tru­sive to the prairie dogs.[22]


Since the 1990s, the Zaire strain of Ebola has kil­led ap­prox­i­mately one third of the pop­u­la­tions of both go­rillas and chim­panzees.[23] Ebola is a hor­rify­ing dis­ease that can cause fever, in­ter­nal bleed­ing, mus­cle weak­ness, difficulty breath­ing and swal­low­ing, vom­it­ing, and di­ar­rhea. In go­rillas, the mor­tal­ity rate may be as high as 90%.[24] Vac­ci­nat­ing apes against Ebola is an­other area where ac­tion has been sug­gested. This could be done through ei­ther an oral bait or a hy­po­der­mic dart.

As large an­i­mals that are similar to hu­mans in many ways, non­hu­man Great Apes like go­rillas and chim­panzees tend to be much more re­spected by hu­mans and treated bet­ter than other an­i­mals. It is likely that these pro­pos­als are taken more se­ri­ously for this rea­son and also be­cause of the risk of Ebola spread­ing from them to hu­mans, even though other an­i­mals de­serve the same con­cern.

Grow­ing con­cerns about zoonotic epi­demics for rea­sons fo­cused on hu­man interests

In­ter­est in wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion has grown in re­cent decades, moved mainly by con­cerns about the health of hu­mans, rather than that of other an­i­mals. This has been due to the risk of zoonotic epi­demics, as it is cur­rently es­ti­mated that around three of four new pathogens in­fect­ing hu­mans may be spread to hu­mans through an­i­mals, and this figure has in­creased over time.[25]

We are now wit­ness­ing an ex­am­ple of this, as ev­i­dence strongly in­di­cates that the COVID-19 pan­demic stems from a horse­shoe bat be­ta­coro­n­avirus[26] which made the jump to hu­mans, prob­a­bly through an in­ter­me­di­ate host such as pan­golins [27] (though SARS-CoV-2-like viruses have also been found in civets and rac­coon dogs).[28]

The SARS (se­vere acute res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome) out­break in hu­mans in 2003 was caused by a differ­ent be­ta­coro­n­avirus that, it is be­lieved, spread from bats to civets and then from civets to hu­mans.[29] Nine years later, in 2012, the MERS (Mid­dle East res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome) out­break was caused by be­ta­coro­n­avirus MERS-CoV, which is sus­pected to have origi­nated in bats and to have spread from bats to camels 20 years ear­lier and then from camels to hu­mans.[30] There may have been other cases of dis­ease out­breaks spread by bats to non­hu­man an­i­mals. The ori­gin of the other four coro­n­aviruses known to af­fect hu­mans with milder effects (be­ta­coro­n­aviruses HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1, and alpha­coro­n­aviruses HCoV-229E and HCoV-NL63) is also likely to be zoonotic.[31]

Wet mar­kets, which bring many differ­ent an­i­mals to­gether in ap­pal­ling con­di­tions, are thought to be re­spon­si­ble for fa­cil­i­tat­ing the jump be­tween species of the two SARS-CoV viruses (2003 and 2019) in China.[32] This has led to west­ern crit­i­cisms of China due to the con­se­quences this has for hu­man health and, to a lesser ex­tent, be­cause of the ways an­i­mals are ex­ploited there. In­flict­ing harms on an­i­mals for hu­man benefit is also the norm in the rest of the world. In ad­di­tion, west­ern fac­tory farms similarly pose a great risk of viral out­breaks to hu­mans, with pre­vi­ous records in­clud­ing differ­ent H1N1 pan­demics and sev­eral other types of in­fluenza, in ad­di­tion to the grow­ing risk of pan­demics of bac­te­rial dis­eases due to bac­te­rial re­sis­tance to the an­tibiotics used in cur­rent farm­ing.[33] (In fact, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has been warn­ing of the risk of pan­demics for a long time, al­though it was con­sid­ered more likely that the next pan­demic would be a flu that origi­nated in a farm.)[34]

From a point of view that takes into ac­count all sen­tient be­ings, these con­sid­er­a­tions aren’t needed in or­der to op­pose an­i­mal ex­ploita­tion. Non­hu­man an­i­mals are sen­tient be­ings who, like hu­mans, are harmed when they are made to suffer and die. The rea­son we give moral con­sid­er­a­tion to some­one should not be the species to which they be­long, or whether they have cer­tain in­tel­lec­tual ca­pac­i­ties, but whether they can feel and suffer. This means that it should be un­ac­cept­able to ex­ploit an­i­mals, as we rou­tinely do, in fac­tory farms and wet mar­kets, as well as in other farms and busi­nesses. Ac­cord­ingly, harms or threats to hu­man health are un­nec­es­sary in or­der to op­pose these forms of ex­ploita­tion. This ap­plies equally to China, west­ern coun­tries, and the rest of the world.

At­ti­tudes of dis­re­gard for non­hu­man an­i­mals have ter­rible con­se­quences for those who are made to suffer and die in farms and mar­kets. It also tends to be ac­com­panied by a dis­re­gard for what hap­pens to an­i­mals in the wild. This can be seen in how in­ter­est in zoonotic dis­eases is based mostly on hu­man health alone. As a re­sult, virus out­breaks that af­fect non­hu­man an­i­mals but not hu­mans have not been as well stud­ied and have not en­tered the pub­lic con­scious­ness, par­tic­u­larly those that af­fect an­i­mals who live in the wild. It’s rea­son­able to sup­pose that there have been many cases of viruses spread from bats to other kinds of non­hu­man an­i­mals which have caused huge amounts of suffer­ing to those an­i­mals. We can see at least a few cases of this from the out­breaks in the in­ter­me­di­ate hosts of COVID-19, SARS, and MERS. The ma­jor­ity of coro­n­aviruses af­fect­ing non­hu­man an­i­mals are stud­ied very lit­tle. Among the best known coro­n­aviruses are some that af­fect an­i­mals used by hu­mans, such as IBV (Avian in­fec­tious bron­chitis virus), PorCoV HKU15 (Porcine coro­n­avirus HKU15), PEDV (Porcine epi­demic di­ar­rhea virus), RECV (Rab­bit en­teric coro­n­avirus), CCoV (Ca­nine coro­n­avirus) and FCoV (Feline coro­n­avirus), al­though oth­ers af­fect­ing an­i­mals in the wild have also been iden­ti­fied, es­pe­cially among bats, as well as in some other an­i­mals rang­ing from birds to hedge­hogs.[35]

Re­ac­tions to zoonoses re­sult­ing from an­i­mal exploitation

Un­for­tu­nately, wild an­i­mals have in many cases been kil­led to re­duce dis­ease trans­mis­sion to hu­mans and to an­i­mals who hu­mans ex­ploit for var­i­ous rea­sons. Mass slaugh­ters of an­i­mals such as chick­ens, hens, pigs, geese and oth­ers dur­ing dis­ease out­breaks origi­nat­ing in farms have be­come a stan­dard pro­ce­dure. Some­thing similar is some­times done to wild an­i­mals.[36] Fol­low­ing the 2003 SARS out­break in hu­mans, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment or­dered the slaugh­ter of 10,000 civets seized in mar­kets, against WHO in­di­ca­tions.[37] Right now, bats have been slaugh­tered in var­i­ous places through­out the world due to the be­lief that this may help to pre­vent the spread of COVID-19. Pro­fes­sor of Zool­ogy at Wuhan Univer­sity, Huabin Zhao, has pointed out that lo­cals are ex­pel­ling hi­ber­nat­ing bats in the city, cap­tur­ing and re­leas­ing them in the wild (where they may not sur­vive, be­cause they are used to liv­ing in the city), as well as sup­port­ing kil­ling them.[38] The be­lief that all kinds of bat species, not just horse­shoe bats — who don’t hi­ber­nate in cities like Wuhan — can spread COVID-19 to you if they pass close to you is pre­sent in many other coun­tries too (from In­done­sia to Peru to the USA).[39] Some even have the view that bats are some­how to blame for the pan­demic, in­stead of hu­mans who have caused it through their con­sump­tion of an­i­mal prod­ucts.

Even if bats could pass the dis­ease to hu­man be­ings, kil­ling them would not only be ob­jec­tion­able from a po­si­tion that defends the moral con­sid­er­a­tion of all sen­tient be­ings; it also wouldn’t work to pre­vent zoonotic in­fec­tions. An ex­am­ple of this is pro­vided, again, by the case of ra­bies, which as we have seen can in­deed be passed to hu­mans by cer­tain an­i­mals, in­clud­ing bats. We have seen already that vac­ci­na­tion can work to stop the spread of this dis­ease. In con­trast, it is cur­rently un­der­stood that kil­ling them does not work. This is be­cause kil­ling bats only re­duces their pop­u­la­tion. It can­not elimi­nate the dis­ease. But bats from colonies that are at­tacked will flee to other colonies. This can in­fect new colonies with ra­bies who can in turn in­fect other an­i­mals. In this way, kil­ling bats can ac­tu­ally help to spread the dis­ease faster. [40] Ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic and in some cases policy mak­ers about all this is nec­es­sary in or­der to avoid mis­guided re­ac­tions that harm an­i­mals.[41]

There are ac­tions that are benefi­cial for an­i­mals and that are also effec­tive in pro­tect­ing hu­mans against zoonoses. Th­ese in­clude not us­ing an­i­mals as re­sources for food and other pur­poses and ac­tively en­gag­ing in helping an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions to fight the dis­eases they suffer from. The first one, which would im­ply that hu­mans would stop harm­ing them, has been pointed out already by oth­ers.[42] Our con­cern here is with the sec­ond one.

Could wild an­i­mals be vac­ci­nated against coro­n­aviruses at some point?

In the first sec­tion of this pa­per we saw how, de­spite dis­re­gard for an­i­mals, it has been in­creas­ingly con­sid­ered that vac­ci­nat­ing an­i­mals is more effec­tive in re­duc­ing dis­ease trans­mis­sion than kil­ling those an­i­mals.[43] The con­nec­tion be­tween the health of hu­mans and other an­i­mals has led to ac­tion be­ing taken in many cases that pro­tect the health of wild an­i­mals, re­sult­ing in sub­stan­tial benefits for these an­i­mals.

Three ap­par­ent limi­ta­tions to the fea­si­bil­ity of a mea­sure like this are:

(i) the lack of an effec­tive vac­cine,

(ii) the lack of fund­ing to im­ple­ment the vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams, and

(iii) the lack of an effec­tive method to ad­minister the vaccine

In the fol­low­ing sec­tion, we will con­sider how these limi­na­tions ap­ply to vac­ci­na­tion against coro­n­aviruses likes SARS-CoV-2.

The lack of vaccines

Of all these limi­ta­tions, the one that may seem most salient right now is the first one. To start with, pro­grams of this kind would only be im­ple­mented af­ter a vac­cine is de­vel­oped and dis­tributed among hu­man be­ings. This means the timing for this is un­cer­tain. . There is still no vac­cine for SARS. Once the SARS epi­demic was con­trol­led more than 15 years ago, fund­ing for efforts to de­velop a vac­cine against them saw a dra­matic de­cline. There is no vac­cine for MERS available yet ei­ther, for similar rea­sons. On the other hand, sub­stan­tial efforts are now be­ing un­der­taken to find a hu­man vac­cine for COVID-19. If a vac­cine were de­vel­oped early this decade, it would be fea­si­ble for vac­cines for an­i­mals to fol­low, and a wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram could be im­ple­mented at some point in the 2020s.[44]

As we have seen above, re­search is be­ing done to iden­tify and learn more about other coro­n­aviruses af­fect­ing an­i­mals. It seems that, given the visi­bil­ity the viruses have now have gained be­cause of their zoonotic po­ten­tial, such re­search will in­crease and more knowl­edge will be gained about them this decade. How­ever, there is a long way from this to the ac­tual de­vel­op­ment of vac­cines against them, and it doesn’t seem re­al­is­tic to ex­pect that a lot of re­sources will be spent on this in the short term. De­ci­sion mak­ers in differ­ent coun­tries have a track record of tak­ing care of zoonotic threats al­most ex­clu­sively when the health or eco­nomic risks to hu­mans are very clearly rec­og­niz­able and im­me­di­ate. They will prob­a­bly pri­oti­tize other things in the com­ing years of eco­nomic crisis.

It is still pos­si­ble that this might change at some fu­ture point, even in the ab­sence of a con­cern for the an­i­mals, as more knowl­edge is gath­ered about po­ten­tially zoonotic coro­n­aviruses af­fect­ing an­i­mals with whom hu­mans in­ter­act, and as a re­sult of fears of a new coro­n­avirus-caused pan­demic.

Fund­ing con­straints to im­ple­ment­ing vac­ci­na­tion programs

Just as we have seen that fund­ing can be the bot­tle­neck for vac­cines against differ­ent coro­n­aviruses be­ing de­vel­oped, it can also de­ter­mine whether wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams are ever im­ple­mented or not. As men­tioned above, be­cause the in­ter­ests of non­hu­man an­i­mals are typ­i­cally dis­re­garded, so it is likely that ac­tion will be taken only when a clear con­nec­tion with hu­man in­ter­ests is per­ceived. Yet pre­vi­ously suc­cess­ful wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams show that when those in­ter­ests are pre­sent, fund­ing has been read­ily pro­vided, even when the pro­grams are am­bi­tious ones.

It is there­fore likely that in the com­ing years, fund­ing for vac­ci­nat­ing non­hu­man an­i­mals against coro­n­aviruses would be available only if the ex­is­tence of reser­voirs for a se­ri­ous dis­ease threat­en­ing hu­mans like COVID-19 were iden­ti­fied in an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions. As for coro­n­aviruses other than the ones already pre­sent in hu­man pop­u­la­tions, it seems that, as pointed out above, pre­ven­tive mea­sures tar­get­ing non­hu­man an­i­mals are not likely to take place in the short term or maybe even in the mid term, al­though it is not un­rea­son­able to think that this might change in the fu­ture.

Tech­ni­cal challenges

Among the three limi­ta­tions listed above, fea­si­bil­ity may rep­re­sent less of a tech­ni­cal challenge than the other two. In an­i­mals like civets and rac­coon dogs,[45] meth­ods like the ones used for ra­bies vac­ci­na­tion could be ap­plied for vac­ci­na­tions against other viruses. Some­thing similar could take place for other large or medium-sized mam­mals. It seems that there wouldn’t be a ma­jor tech­ni­cal ob­sta­cle to vac­ci­nat­ing them against coro­n­aviruses, and this could hap­pen if they are found to be car­ry­ing viruses that might harm hu­mans.

Bat vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams face com­pli­ca­tions that are not pre­sent with other mam­mals, but they are not un­solv­able ones. Some species may eat baits with the vac­cine in them, but oth­ers will not. To get some hints about how this prob­lem could be ap­proached, we will see ex­pe­riences with vac­ci­nat­ing bats against other dis­eases (al­though these ex­pe­riences can only tell us the situ­a­tion at this point, be­cause this is a field that may see fur­ther de­vel­op­ments in forth­com­ing years).

White nose disease

White nose dis­ease is makes an in­ter­est­ing com­par­i­son be­cause it in­fects bats in huge num­bers, al­though it is a fun­gal in­fec­tion rather than a virus. It is caused by the fun­gus Pseu­do­gym­noas­cus de­struc­tans, and it harms bats by dis­rupt­ing their hi­ber­na­tion, caus­ing them to wake up and waste crit­i­cal en­ergy re­serves. It nor­mally causes an ap­pal­ling 90% mor­tal­ity rate in some species, but with ad­minis­tra­tion of pro­biotics this rate is roughly halved.[46] The fun­gus is thought to have kil­led more than 6 mil­lion bats in North Amer­ica. The pro­biotic can be ad­ministered through a mist.[47]

Though vac­cines against fun­gal in­fec­tions are rare, re­searchers have re­cently pro­posed de­vel­op­ing a vac­cine against Pseu­do­gym­noas­cus de­struc­tans and vac­ci­nat­ing bats in North Amer­ica against it. The method of de­ploy­ing it can­not be in­di­vi­d­u­al­ized, but in a liquid, gel or spray that can be ad­ministered en masse to bats.[48] Th­ese dis­per­sal meth­ods have already been stud­ied for other cases in this re­search,[49] and it seems rea­son­able to guess that the re­search may also be ap­pli­ca­ble to other vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams.[50]

Ra­bies (in bats)

There have been a num­ber of stud­ies on vac­ci­nat­ing bats against ra­bies and effec­tive vac­cines have been found.[51] The goal of these stud­ies and pro­pos­als to vac­ci­nate vam­pire bats against ra­bies is to re­duce the spread of ra­bies from vam­pire bats to hu­mans and cows (be­cause of their eco­nomic value to hu­mans through their ex­ploita­tion). It has not yet been done on a large scale out­side of these tri­als, though re­search fa­vors do­ing it be­cause of its cost effec­tive­ness, even from a speciesist per­spec­tive alone.[52] Other kinds of bats can also be vac­ci­nated.[53]

Similar to what is done to com­bat white nose dis­ease, sci­en­tists have de­vel­oped a gel ra­bies vac­cine that can be spread be­tween bats when they make con­tact with each other. The bats will later lick the gel when they groom them­selves. In this way, for each bat they ap­ply the gel to, a to­tal of 2.6 bats on av­er­age are pro­tected.[54] This seems like a promis­ing ap­pli­ca­tion method that can be used in the fu­ture and it seems rea­son­able that it could be used to dis­tribute coro­n­avirus vac­cines in bats.

In light of all this, it seems that the main is­sue when it comes to whether an­i­mals might be vac­ci­nated against coro­n­aviruses are not tech­ni­cal im­ped­i­ments or the even­tual de­vel­op­ment of a vac­cine, but rather whether the pres­ence of such viruses in an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions would be con­sid­ered a rele­vant enough threat to hu­man health and eco­nomic in­ter­ests. If it is done, it would be very benefi­cial to the an­i­mals af­fected, as well as to many oth­ers, as we will see next.

How ev­ery wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram can be benefi­cial to other an­i­mals too

Zoonoses spread­ing from non­hu­man an­i­mals to hu­mans are a minor­ity of those oc­cur­ring: most oc­cur be­tween differ­ent species of non­hu­man an­i­mals. This is why, as men­tioned above in the case of bats, vac­ci­nat­ing cer­tain an­i­mals can help not only an­i­mals of those pop­u­la­tions, but also many other non­hu­man an­i­mals to whom they could have passed the dis­ease. This may be the case es­pe­cially for bats, be­cause they have one of the high­est dis­ease bur­dens among wild mam­mals. Among other con­di­tions, they are harmed by a num­ber of differ­ent coro­n­aviruses-caused dis­eases. In fact, they har­bor more than half of all known coro­n­aviruses.[55] Some fac­tors that may con­tribute to this high dis­ease bur­den are that they have high ge­netic di­ver­sity (there are both many species and many in­di­vi­d­ual bats), they’re long-lived, and they roost in large groups.[56] More­over, bats have strong im­mune sys­tems, which means that viruses that in­fect them need to be viru­lent. This, in turn, means they tend to be more harm­ful to other an­i­mals that the dis­eases jump to than they are to bats. Coron­aviruses, in par­tic­u­lar, have a high rate of re­com­bi­na­tion and mu­ta­tion which makes it more likely for them to in­fect new kinds of an­i­mals.[57] In ad­di­tion, be­cause bats fly, they can spread dis­eases over a wider area. This makes the con­tinued pres­ence of coro­n­aviruses and of other viruses in bats dan­ger­ous to other an­i­mals as well.There is an­other im­por­tant benefit when any new vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram takes place: we gain more in­for­ma­tion about how to con­duct fu­ture vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams that can help an­i­mals. For this rea­son, each new wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram can be very use­ful for more com­pre­hen­sive work in the fu­ture.

In ad­di­tion, these pro­grams can help in­crease con­cern for sen­tient an­i­mals in gen­eral, which will be cru­cial not just in the short term, but es­pe­cially in the long term, to im­prove their situ­a­tion. To start with, show­ing the pub­lic an al­ter­na­tive to slaugh­ter which works bet­ter and helps an­i­mals rather than harm­ing them can make it eas­ier to in­crease con­cern for them. This is similar to what hap­pens when the availa­bil­ity of al­ter­na­tives to an­i­mal ex­ploita­tion leads to fewer peo­ple giv­ing sup­port to an­i­mal ex­ploita­tion and more sup­port to giv­ing moral con­sid­er­a­tion to its vic­tims.

What is more im­por­tant, as men­tioned above, an­i­mals in the wild suffer due to many differ­ent fac­tors. Con­cern for them has already caused peo­ple in differ­ent places to get in­volved in differ­ent ways of helping them. Th­ese efforts have been able to help only a tiny por­tion of those who need help. But they have nev­er­the­less suc­ceeded in mak­ing this a more visi­ble is­sue. Th­ese vivid ex­am­ples also help counter the claim that, difficult as the situ­a­tion is for these an­i­mals, there is no way we can change it. We should in­stead en­courage fur­ther efforts to help an­i­mals more.

This is an even greater con­cern be­cause in the fu­ture our abil­ity to help an­i­mals in the wild may grow sub­stan­tially. Due to this, it is crit­i­cal that we raise con­cern for an­i­mals so that ac­tion will be taken when it can be. Suc­cess­ful wild an­i­mal vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams, even when they are done out of a hu­man in­ter­est, help show that it would be fea­si­ble to do them out of con­cern for non­hu­man an­i­mals them­selves. This can also gen­er­ate more con­fi­dence in other ini­ti­a­tives to help wild an­i­mals, such as, for ex­am­ple, res­cue pro­grams for an­i­mals who are the vic­tims of ex­treme weather events, or ini­ti­a­tives to im­prove the lives of an­i­mals in ur­ban, sub­ur­ban, and agri­cul­tural ar­eas.

Fi­nally, vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams also challenge other ob­jec­tions to helping wild an­i­mals. Some peo­ple re­ject helping an­i­mals who live in the wild be­cause they think that we should leave them alone, even when this means leav­ing them to suffer and die, for ex­am­ple due to some painful dis­ease. In con­trast, few peo­ple ob­ject to vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams such as the ones we have seen above that also have benefi­cial effects for hu­mans. This rep­re­sents a dou­ble stan­dard where it is ac­cept­able to in­ter­vene for hu­man in­ter­ests but not for those of other an­i­mals. It shows a speciesist at­ti­tude which ap­pears to un­derly this ob­jec­tion to helping an­i­mals who live in the wild. Also, see­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of ways to help can in­crease sup­port for them.


[1] An­i­mal Ethics (2020) In­tro­duc­tion to wild an­i­mal suffer­ing: A guide to the is­sues, Oak­land: An­i­mal Ethics [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020]. See also Faria, C. & Paez, E. (2015) “An­i­mals in need: The prob­lem of wild an­i­mal suffer­ing and in­ter­ven­tion in na­ture”, Re­la­tions: Beyond An­thro­pocen­trism, 3, pp. 7-13 [ac­cessed on 3 May 2020]; Horta, O. (2017) “An­i­mal suffer­ing in na­ture: The case for in­ter­ven­tion”, En­vi­ron­men­tal Ethics, 39, pp. 261-279; Alonso, W. J. & Schuck-Paim, C. (2017) “Life-fates: Mean­ingful cat­e­gories to es­ti­mate an­i­mal suffer­ing in the wild“, An­i­mal Ethics [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020]; Hecht, L. B. B. (2019) “Ac­count­ing for de­mog­ra­phy in the as­sess­ment of wild an­i­mal welfare”, bioRxiv, Ocober 28 [ac­cessed on 1 May 2020].

[2] Wobeser, G. A. (2005) Essen­tials of dis­ease in wild an­i­mals, New York: John Wiley and Sons.

[3] An­i­mal Ethics (2020) Sur­vey­ing at­ti­tudes to­ward helping wild an­i­mals among sci­en­tists and stu­dents, Oak­land: An­i­mal Ethics [ac­cessed on 1 May 2020]

[4] World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (2020) “Ra­bies”, News­room, WHO, 21 April [ac­cessed on 5 May 2020].

[5] This not only means much less stress and risk of in­jury be­cause the an­i­mals do not need to be han­dled or cap­tured in or­der to vac­ci­nate them. It also what re­ally al­lows the vac­ci­na­tion pro­cess to reach very large num­bers of an­i­mals. See Rup­precht, C. E.; Han­lon, C. A. & Slate, D. (2003) “Oral vac­ci­na­tion of wildlife against ra­bies: Op­por­tu­ni­ties and challenges in pre­ven­tion and con­trol”, Devel­op­ments in Biolog­i­cals, 119, pp. 173-184.

[6] Rob­bins, A. H.; Bor­den, M. D.; Wind­mil­ler, B.S.; Niez­goda, M.; Mar­cus, L. C.; O’Brien, S. M.; Krein­del, S. M.; McGuill, M. W.; DeMaria, A., Jr.; Rup­precht, C. E. & Row­ell, S. (1998) “Preven­tion of the spread of ra­bies to wildlife by oral vac­ci­na­tion of rac­coons in Mas­sachusetts”, Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Ve­teri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, 213, pp. 1407-1412.

[7] Fear­ney­hough, M. G.; Wil­son, P. J.; Clark, K. A.; Smith, D. R.; John­ston, D. H.; Hicks, B. N. & Moore, G. M. (1998) “Re­sults of an oral ra­bies vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram for coy­otes”, Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Ve­teri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, 212, pp. 498-502.

[8] Slate, D.; Rup­precht, C. E.; Rooney, J. A.; Dono­van, D.; Lein, D. H. & Chip­man, R. B. (2005) “Sta­tus of oral ra­bies vac­ci­na­tion in wild car­nivores in the United States”, Virus Re­search, 111, pp. 68-76.

[9] Dri­ciru, M.; Rwego, I. B.; Asiimwe, B.; Travis, D. A.; Al­varez, J.; Van­derWaal, K. & Pel­i­can, K. (2018) “Spa­tio-tem­po­ral epi­demiol­ogy of an­thrax in Hip­popota­mus am­phibi­ous in Queen Eliz­a­beth Pro­tected Area, Uganda”, PLOS ONE, 13 (11) [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020].

[10] Luhn, A. (2016) “An­thrax out­break trig­gered by cli­mate change kills boy in Arc­tic Cir­cle”, The Guardian, 1 Au­gust [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[11] Ren­gel, J. & Böh­nel, H. (1994) “Vorver­suche zur oralen Im­mu­nisierung von Wildtieren gegen Milzbrand”, Ber­liner und Münch­ener tierärztliche Wochen­schrift, 107, pp. 145-149; Turn­bull, P. C. B.; Tin­dall, B. W.; Coet­zee, J. D.; Con­radie, C. M.; Bull, R. L.; Lin­d­eque, P. M. & Hueb­schle, O. J. B. (2004) “Vac­cine-in­duced pro­tec­tion against an­thrax in chee­tah (Aci­nonyx ju­ba­tus) and black rhino­ceros (Diceros bi­cor­nis)”, Vac­cine, 22, pp. 3340-3347.

[12] Ndeereh, D.; Obanda, V.; Mi­jele, D. & Gakuya, F. (2012) “Medicine in the wild: Strate­gies to­wards healthy and breed­ing wildlife pop­u­la­tions in Kenya”, The Ge­orge Wright Fo­rum, 29, pp. 100-108 [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[13] Queensland. Depart­ment of Em­ploy­ment, Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment and In­no­va­tion (2002) Rin­der­pest, Queensland Govern­ment.

[14] Pearce, F. (2000) “In­vent­ing Africa”, New Scien­tist, 167, Au­gust 12 [ac­cessed on 7 May 2020].

[15] World Or­gani­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health (2011) “2011 - Global free­dom from rinder­pest”, Rin­der­pest Por­tal, OIE [ac­cessed on 5 May 2020].

[16] Al­cott, D. (2018) “How a cat­tle vac­cine helped save giraf­fes”, That’s Life [Science], 15 Oc­to­ber [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[17] World Or­gani­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health (2019) “Bru­cel­losis”, OIE [ac­cessed on 5 May 2020].

[18] Ibid.

[19] Buf­falo Field Cam­paign (2016) “Yel­low­stone bi­son and bru­cel­losis: Per­sis­tent mythol­ogy”, The Bru­cel­losis Myth, Buf­falo Field Cam­paing [ac­cessed on 7 May 2020]. Un­for­tu­nately, the cur­rent prac­tice is to kill hun­dreds of bi­sons per year to pla­cate farm­ers who fear that the dis­ease will be spread to their cap­tive cows, see Bryan, C. (2016) “Yel­low­stone will close off park to con­duct se­cret slaugh­ter”, The Dodo, 4 Fe­bru­ary [ac­cessed on 6 May 2020].

[20] Chewy (2019) “Plague in­fec­tion in prairie dogs”, PetMD, 14 Septem­ber [ac­cesses on 7 De­cem­ber 2019].

[21] Prairie Dog Coal­i­tion (2018) Prairie dogs, peo­ple and plague, Boulder: The Hu­mane So­ciety of the United States [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[22] Leggett, H. (2009) “Plague vac­cine for prairie dogs could save en­dan­gered fer­ret”, Wired, 4 Au­gust [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[23] Tor­res, L. (2012) “Should we vac­ci­nate wild apes?”, Global An­i­mal [ac­cessed on 2 July 2013]; Ryan S. J. & Walsh, P. D. (2011) “Con­se­quences of non-in­ter­ven­tion for in­fec­tious dis­ease in Afri­can great apes”, PLOS ONE, 6, e29030 [ac­cessed on 5 Septem­ber 2019].

[24] Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ciety (2019) “Study: Com­mu­nity-based wildlife car­cass surveillance is key for early de­tec­tion of Ebola virus in Cen­tral Africa”, WCS News­room, 28 Au­gust [ac­cessed on 5 May 2020].

[25] Saif, L. J. (2004) “An­i­mal coro­n­aviruses: What can they teach us about the se­vere acute res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome?”, Re­vue sci­en­tifique et tech­nique (Office in­ter­na­tional des épi­zooties), 23, pp. 643-660; Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion (2017) “Zoonotic dis­eases”, One Health, CDC, 14 July [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[26] Coron­aviruses are cur­rently clas­sified in four gen­era, alpha­coro­n­aviruses and be­ta­coro­n­aviruses, which have been seen to in­fect mam­mals, and delta­coro­n­aviruses and gam­ma­coro­n­aviruses, which can in­fect mam­mals too but typ­i­cally in­fect birds.

[27] An­der­sen, K. G.; Ram­baut, A.; Lip­kin, W. I.; Holmes, E. C. & Garry, R. F. (2020) “The prox­i­mal ori­gin of SARS-CoV-2”, Na­ture Medicine, 26, pp. 450-452 [ac­cessed on 16 April 2020].

[28] Biao K.; Ming W.; Huaiqi J.; Huifang X.; Xiu­gao J.; Meiy­ing Y.; Weili L.; Han Z.; Kan­glin W.; Qiy­ong L.; Buyun C.; Yan­mei X.; En­min Z.; Hongxia W.; Jin­grong Y.; Guichang L.; Machao L.; Zhi­gang C.; Xiaobao Q.; Kai C.; Lin D.; Kai G.; Yu-teng Z.; Xiao-zhong Z.; Yue-Ju F.; Yu-Fan G.; Rong H.; Dongzhen Y.; Yi G. & Jian­guo X. (2005) “Molec­u­lar evolu­tion anal­y­sis and ge­o­graphic in­ves­ti­ga­tion of se­vere acute res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome coro­n­avirus-like virus in palm civets at an an­i­mal mar­ket and on farms”, Jour­nal of Virol­ogy, 79, pp. 11892-11900 [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020].

[29] Vi­jaykr­ishna, D.; Smith, G. J.; Zhang J. X.; Peiris, J. S. M.; Chen H. & Guan Y. (2007) “Evolu­tion­ary in­sights into the ecol­ogy of coro­n­aviruses”, Jour­nal of Virol­ogy, 81, pp. 4012-4020 [ac­cessed on 3 May 2020].

[30] Ben H.; Xingyi G.; Lin-Fa W. & Zhengli S. (2015) “Bat ori­gin of hu­man coro­n­aviruses”, Virol­ogy Jour­nal, 12, a221 [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020]. SARS and MERS were both quite deadly dis­eases in hu­mans with ap­prox­i­mately a 10% and a 35% mor­tal­ity rate re­spec­tively, which is much higher than COVID-19. How­ever, they were not as difficult to con­tain as COVID-19.

[31] Vij­gen, L.; Keyaerts, E.; Moës, E.; Thoe­len, I.; Wol­lants, E.; Le­mey, P.; Van­damme, A. M. & Van Ranst, M. (2005) “Com­plete ge­nomic se­quence of hu­man coro­n­avirus OC43: Molec­u­lar clock anal­y­sis sug­gests a rel­a­tively re­cent zoonotic coro­n­avirus trans­mis­sion event”, Jour­nal of Virol­ogy, 79, pp. 1595-1604 [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020].; Huynh, J.; Li, S.; Yount, B.; Smith, A.; Sturges, L.; Olsen, J. C.; Nagel, J.; John­son, J. B.; Ag­nihothram, S.; Gates, J. E. & Frie­man, M. B. (2012) “Ev­i­dence sup­port­ing a zoonotic ori­gin of hu­man coro­n­avirus strain NL63”, Jour­nal of Virol­ogy, 86, pp. 12816-12825; Ying T.; Mang S.; Chom­ma­nard, C.; Queen, K.; Jing Z.; Markot­ter, W.; Kuzmin, I. V.; Holmes, E. C. Sux­i­ang T. (2017) “Surveillance of bat coro­n­aviruses in Kenya iden­ti­fies rel­a­tives of hu­man coro­n­aviruses NL63 and 229E and their re­com­bi­na­tion his­tory”, Jour­nal of Virol­ogy, 91, e01953-16 [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020]; Zi-Wei Y.; Shuofeng Y.; Kit-San Y.; Sin-Yee F.; Chi-Ping C. & Dong-Yan J. (2020) “Zoonotic ori­gins of hu­man coro­n­aviruses”, In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Biolog­i­cal Sciences, 16, pp. 1686-1697 [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020].

[32] Guan Y.; Zheng B.J.; He Y. Q.; Liu X. L.; Zhuang Z. X.; Che­ung C. L.; Luo S. W.; Li P. H.; Zhang L. J.; Guan Y. J.; Butt, K. M.; Wong K. L.; Chan K.W.; Lim W.; Shor­tridge, K. F.; Yuen K. Y.; Peiris, J. S. & Poon L .L. (2003) “Iso­la­tion and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of viruses re­lated to the SARS coro­n­avirus from an­i­mals in south­ern China”, Science, 302, pp. 276-278; Wu F.; Zhao S.; Yu B.; Chen Y. M.; Wang W.; Song Z. G.; Hu Y.; Tao Z. W.; Tian J. H.; Pei Y. Y & Yuan M. L. (2020) “A new coro­n­avirus as­so­ci­ated with hu­man res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease in China”, Na­ture, 579, pp. 265-269 [ac­cessed on 13 Fe­bru­ary 2020]; Zhou P.; Yang X. L.; Wang X. G.; Hu B.; Zhang L.; Zhang W.; Si H. R.; Zhu Y.; Li B.; Huang C. L. & Chen H. D. (2020) “A pneu­mo­nia out­break as­so­ci­ated with a new coro­n­avirus of prob­a­ble bat ori­gin”, Na­ture. 579, pp. 270-273 [ac­cessed on 13 Fe­bru­ary 2020].

[33] Fineberg, H. V. (2014) “Pan­demic pre­pared­ness and re­sponse — les­sons from the H1N1 in­fluenza of 2009”, New England Jour­nal of Medicine, 370, pp. 1335-1342 [ac­cessed on 3 May 2020]; Manyi-Loh, C.; Mam­ph­weli, S.; Meyer, E. & Okoh, A. (2018) “An­tibiotic use in agri­cul­ture and its con­se­quen­tial re­sis­tance in en­vi­ron­men­tal sources: Po­ten­tial pub­lic health im­pli­ca­tions”, Molecules, 23, E795 [ac­cessed on 3 May 2020]; Van Boeckel, T. P.; Pires, J.; Silvester, R.; Zhao, C.; Song, J.; Criscuolo, N. G.; Gilbert, M.; Bon­hoeffer, S. & Laxmi­narayan, R. (2019) “Global trends in an­timicro­bial re­sis­tance in an­i­mals in low-and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries”, Science, 365, pp. 1251-1252.

[34] World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (2019) Global in­fluenza strat­egy 2019-2030, World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, p. 4 [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020]. See also Morse, S. S.; Mazet, J. A.; Woolhouse, M.; Par­rish, C. R.; Car­roll, D.; Karesh, W. B.; Zam­brana-Tor­re­lio, C.; Lip­kin, W. I. & Daszak, P. (2012) “Pre­dic­tion and pre­ven­tion of the next pan­demic zoono­sis”, The Lancet, 380, pp. 1956-1965 [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[35] The harms caused by other coro­n­aviruses to an­i­mals liv­ing in the wild is un­for­tu­nately not well known.There are many coro­n­aviruses in­fect­ing many differ­ent kinds of an­i­mals, so the symp­toms vary quite a lot. We do know that in mam­mals and birds they cause a va­ri­ety of symp­toms in pri­mar­ily the res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem and gas­troin­testi­nal sys­tem, but can also af­fect the liver and the ner­vous sys­tem. See Bande, F.; Ar­shad, S. S.; Bejo, M. H.; Moeini, H. & Omar, A. R. (2015) “Progress and challenges to­ward the de­vel­op­ment of vac­cines against avian in­fec­tious bron­chitis”, Jour­nal of Im­munol­ogy Re­search, a424860 [ac­cessed on 3 May 2020]; Brook, C. E. & Dob­son, A. P. (2015) “Bats as ‘spe­cial’ reser­voirs for emerg­ing zoonotic pathogens”, Trends in Micro­biol­ogy, 23, pp. 172-180 [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020].

[36] Another ex­am­ple of these mea­sures in­volv­ing bats has been the slaugh­ters of fruit bats, which is ques­tioned in Oli­val, K. J. (2016) “To cull, or not to cull, bat is the ques­tion”, EcoHealth, 13, pp. 6-8 [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020].

[37] CBS In­ter­ac­tive (2004) “Civet cat slaugh­ter to fight SARS”, CBS News, 11 Jan­uary [ac­cessed on 16 April 2020].

[38] Huabin Z. (2020) “COVID-19 drives new threat to bats in China”, Science, 367, p. 1436 [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[39] South China Morn­ing Post (2020) “Hun­dreds of bats cul­led in In­done­sia to ‘pre­vent spread’ of the coro­n­avirus”, South China Morn­ing Post, YouTube, 16 March [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020]; (2020) “Peru saves bats blamed for coro­n­avirus”, Biol­ogy,, March 25 [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020]; Mor­ris, J. (2020) “Should we be wor­ried about bats in San Jose mak­ing us sick?”, Mer­cury News, 14 Fe­bru­ary [ac­cessed on 3 May 2020].

[40] Erick­son-Michi­gan, J. (2013) “Cul­ling vam­pire bats may spread ra­bies faster”, Fu­tu­rity, 3 De­cem­ber [ac­cessed on April 28 2020].

[41] Alag­ona, P. (2020) “It’s wrong to blame bats for the coro­n­avirus epi­demic”, The Con­ver­sa­tion, 24 March [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020]; Dal­ton, J. (2020) “Coron­avirus: Ex­ter­mi­nat­ing bats blamed for spread­ing Covid-19 would in­crease risk of fur­ther dis­eases, warn ex­perts”, The In­de­pen­dent, 19 April [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020]; Ghosh, S. (2020) “Bats not the en­emy in the fight against COVID-19”, Mongabay, 24 April [ac­cessed on 1 May 2020].

[42] See for ex­am­ple Singer, P. & Cava­lieri, P. (2020) “The two dark sides of COVID-19”, Pro­ject Syn­di­cate, 2 March [ac­cessed on 4 May 2020].

[43] Au­bert, M. F. A. (1999) “Costs and benefits of ra­bies con­trol in­wildlife in France”, Re­vue sci­en­tifique et tech­nique (In­ter­na­tional Office of Epi­zootics), 18, pp. 533-543; Blan­cou, J.; Pa­s­toret, P. P.; Brochier, B.; Thomas, I. & Bögel, K. (1988) “Vac­ci­nat­ing wild an­i­mals against ra­bies”, Re­views in Science Tech­nol­ogy, 7, pp. 1005-1013 [ac­cessed on 7 May 2020].

[44] Ideally, we can spec­u­late that one way to pre­vent po­ten­tial pan­demics caused by other viruses that still do not af­fect hu­mans would con­sist in study­ing them and de­vel­op­ing vac­cines for them be­fore they pass to hu­mans, al­though it would be un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect some­thing like this will hap­pen in the next years.

[45] Biao K.; Ming W.; Huaiqi J.; Huifang X.; Xiu­gao J.; Meiy­ing Y.; Weili L.; Han Z.; Kan­glin W.; Qiy­ong L.; Buyun C.; Yan­mei X.; En­min Z.; Hongxia W.; Jin­grong Y.; Guichang L.; Machao L.; Zhi­gang C.; Xiaobao Q.; Kai C.; Lin D.; Kai G.; Yu-teng Z.; Xiao-zhong Z.; Yue-Ju F.; Yu-Fan G.; Rong H.; Dongzhen Y.; Yi G. & Jian­guo X. (2005) op. cit.

[46] Hoyt, J. R.; Lang­wig, K. E.; White, J. P.; Kaarakka, H. M.; Redell, J. A.; Parise, K. L.; Frick, W. F.; Foster, J. T. & Kil­patrick, A. M. (2019) “Field trial of a pro­biotic bac­te­ria to pro­tect bats from white-nose syn­drome”, Scien­tific Re­ports, 9 [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[47] O’Neill, K. (2019) “Spray­ing bats with ‘good’ bac­te­ria may com­bat deadly white nose syn­drome”, Science News, July 15 [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[48] Cush­man, W. (2019) “The sci­en­tific fron­tier of vac­ci­nat­ing bats against a deadly virus”, WisCon­text, Nov. 8 [ac­cessed on 16 April 2020].

[49] O’Neill, K. (2019) op. cit.

[50] Garner, S. (2018) “How to vac­ci­nate a wild bat”, Scien­tific Amer­i­can, Novem­ber 22 [ac­cessed on 1 May 2020].

[51] Th­ese stud­ies have fo­cused on vac­ci­nat­ing vam­pire bats (which rep­re­sent only three species of the 1200 species of bats in the world and live only in Latin Amer­ica). Erick­son-Michi­gan, J. (2013) “Cul­ling vam­pire bats may spread ra­bies faster”, Fu­tu­rity, De­cem­ber 3rd [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020].

[52] Aguilar Sé­tien, A.; Brochier, B.; Tordo, N.; de Paz, O.; Des­met­tre, P.; Péharpré, D. & Pa­s­toret, P.-P. (1998) “Ex­per­i­men­tal ra­bies in­fec­tion and oral vac­ci­na­tion in vam­pire bats (Des­modus ro­tun­dus)”, Vac­cine, 16, pp. 1122-1126.

[53] Lol­lar, A. (2004) “Vac­ci­nat­ing in­sec­tivorous bats against ra­bies”, In­ter­na­tional Bat Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Jour­nal, 2 (1), p. 1. The world bat sanc­tu­ary has been vac­ci­nat­ing all the bats there against ra­bies since 1990

[54] Bakker, K. M.; Rocke, T. E.; Oso­rio, J. E.; Ab­bott, R. C.; Tello, C.; Car­rera, J. E.; Valder­rama, W.; Shiva, C.; Fal­con, N. & Stre­icker, D. G. (2019) “Fluores­cent bio­mark­ers demon­strate prospects for spread­able vac­cines to con­trol dis­ease trans­mis­sion in wild bats”, Na­ture Ecol­ogy & Evolu­tion, 3, pp. 1697-1704.

[55] Ben H.; Xingyi G.; Lin-Fa W. & Zhengli S. (2015) op. cit.

[56] Cal­isher, C. H.; Childs, J. E.; Field, H. E.; Holmes, K. V. & Schountz, T. (2006) “Bats: Im­por­tant reser­voir hosts of emerg­ing viruses”, Clini­cal Micro­biol­ogy Re­views, 19, pp. 531-545 [ac­cessed on 2 May 2020]; Luis, A. D.; Hay­man, D. T.; O’Shea, T. J.; Cryan, P. M.; Gilbert, A. T.; Pul­liam, J. R.; Mills, J. N.; Ti­monin, M. E.; Willis, C. K.; Cun­ning­ham, A. A.; Fooks, A. R.; Rup­precht, C. E.; Wood, J. L. N. & Webb, C. T. (2013) “A com­par­i­son of bats and ro­dents as reser­voirs of zoonotic viruses: Are bats spe­cial?”, Pro­ceed­ings of the Royal So­ciety B: Biolog­i­cal Sciences, 280, a. 1756 [ac­cessed on 3 May 2020].

[57] Lau S. K. P.; Woo P. C. Y.; Li K. S. M.; Yi H.; Hoi-Wah T.; Wong B. H. L.; Wong S. S. Y.; Suet-Yi L.; Kwok-Hung C. & Kwok-Yung Y. (2005) “Se­vere acute res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome coro­n­avirus-like virus in Chi­nese horse­shoe bats”, Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences, 102, pp. 14040-14045 [ac­cessed on 3 May 2020].


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