Russia Creates 17k Doses of COVID Vaccines for Animals as Other Countries Show Interest

Russia has produced the first round of COVID-19 vaccines for animals, and other countries have already expressed interest in the doses, too.

"About 20 organizations are ready to negotiate registration and supply of the vaccine to their countries," the Kremlin's agricultural regulator, Rosselkhoznadzor, said on Friday.

The first 17,000 doses of the animal vaccine are ready and companies from Germany, Greece, Poland, Austria, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Lebanon, Iran and Argentina have voiced interest in accessing the shots, Reuters reported. The first batch will be distributed to several regions only in Russia, but the Kremlin is ready to start shipping the shots abroad.

"The file for registration abroad, in particular in the European Union, is under preparation and will be promptly used for the registration process," Rosselkhoznadzor said.

Covid dog
Russia has produced 17,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for animals, and other countries are showing interest in the doses. Above, a woman wearing a face mask walks her dog along a pedestrian street amid a reinstated strict lockdown to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus, on April 10, in Bogota, Colombia. Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images

The first batch comes after the agricultural agency announced in March that mass production of the vaccine, known as Carnivac-Cov, would begin after it successfully produced antibodies against COVID-19 in dogs, cats, foxes and mink. The animals showed a significant immune response to the virus since vaccine trials began last October.

"The results of the trials allow us to conclude that the vaccine is safe and highly immunogenic as all the vaccinated animals developed antibodies to the coronavirus," Konstantin Savenkov, Rosselkhoznadzor's deputy head, said in a statement in March.

Global health regulators have voiced concern about the risk of COVID-19 transmission between humans and animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in March the most likely origin of COVID-19 was transmission of the virus from bats to humans, according to the Associated Press.

"SARS-CoV-2 spreads primarily through human-to-human transmission, but there is evidence of transmission between humans and animals," a WHO spokesperson wrote to Newsweek. "Several animals like mink, dogs, domestic cats, lions, tigers and raccoon dogs have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after contact with infected humans. There have been reports of large animal outbreaks in mink farms in several countries."

The spokesperson added the WHO is working with other organizations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organization for Animal Health, to evaluate potential transitions between humans and animals.

Alexander Gintsburg, leader of the institute that developed Russia's Sputnik V human COVID-19 vaccine, said in March that farm and domestic animals would be the next frontier of defense when it comes to the virus.

"The use of the vaccine, according to Russian researchers, can prevent the development of viral mutations, which most often occur during interspecies transmission of the agent," Rosselkhoznadzor said back in March.

While the U.S. was not one of the countries listed as interested in Carnivac-Cov vaccines, the news does comes the same month that a study at the University of Washington found 23 dogs had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. The study pointed to the potential of human-to-animal transmission of infection.

Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, director of the University of Washington Center for One Health Research and principal investigator for the COVID and Pets Study, said in a press statement: "These results indicate that COVID-infected humans are able to transmit the virus to animals living in the same household. While we don't have evidence that this poses a risk to other humans, we are recommending that COVID-infected persons take steps to reduce the risk of infecting their pets."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "There is no evidence" at this time that animals spread COVID-19 to people, and that risk is still considered very low.

The CDC website reads: "We are still learning about this virus, but we know that it can spread from people to animals in some situations, especially during close contact."

Newsweek has reached out to the CDC for further comment on potential animal transmission of COVID-19.

Update: This story has been updated to include comment from the WHO.