Vets Caught Giving Dog Coronavirus Vaccines to Humans

A veterinary clinic in Calama, Chile caught the attention of local health authorities when, back in September, it was reported that their employees weren't wearing masks because they had already been vaccinated against COVID-19. But there was one problem: approved vaccines didn't become available in the country until months later.

According to The Associated Press, Maria Fernanda Muñoz, who runs the veterinary practice in question, admitted to giving herself and several others a coronavirus vaccine for dogs in lieu of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Roxana Díaz, Antofagasta province's deputy health secretary, described the practice discovered by her agency as "very dangerous."

"There are studies that say the effects can be local—irritation caused by the medications it has—or systemic. But we haven't done a study of what happens inoculating a person with canine vaccines because that would be unethical," she said.

Muñoz reportedly defended her actions by arguing that she hadn't gotten ill.

According to Díaz, Muñoz was not the only veterinary practitioner caught encouraging false COVID protection through the use of canine vaccines. Carlos Pardo, another Chilean vet, reportedly also promoted the dog coronavirus vaccines for human use.

Both veterinarians have since been fined: Pardo must pay the equivalent of $9,200 and Muñoz owes $10,300. However, both have reportedly appealed the punishment.

COVID-19 Vaccine Arm
Vaccines protecting against COVID-19 are becoming increasingly available worldwide. Sirachai Arunrugstichai/Getty Images

The dog vaccine administered by Muñoz targets the canine coronavirus disease (CCoV), an intestinal infection in dogs. Rather than respiratory issues, as seen with COVID-19, the canine coronavirus leads to gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and loss of appetite. This canine coronavirus does not affect humans and is not the same as the one that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). As a result, the vaccines are not interchangeable.

According to The South China Morning Post, at least 75 people were given the canine vaccine, "including health workers and miners." They also reported that Muñoz and Pardo have yet to pay their fines, according to health officials.

An approved COVID-19 vaccine reportedly didn't arrive in Chile until December, months after Muñoz began inoculating people with the dog vaccine. Since then, approximately 7.7 million people have received at least one dose of a legitimate COVID-19 vaccine, according to AP.

While the canine coronavirus disease doesn't affect humans, it doesn't mean that dogs are immune from catching COVID-19. While reported cases are rare, it is possible for pets to catch the virus, especially if they come in close contact with an infected human. Some signs to look out for include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and a runny nose.