Specialists give an injection to a rabbit at a laboratory of the Federal Center for Animal Health during the development of a vaccine against the COVID-19 for animals, in Vladimir, Russia, Dec. 9, 2020.
FILE - Specialists give an injection to a rabbit at a laboratory of the Federal Center for Animal Health during the development of a vaccine against the COVID-19 for animals, in Vladimir, Russia, Dec. 9, 2020. (VETANDLIFE.RU/Handout)

MOSCOW - Russia says it registered the world’s first vaccine for animals against the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday — with government officials hailing an inoculation labeled ‘Carnivac-Cov’ as a victory in the global race to protect both animals and humans from further mutations of the coronavirus.

“The clinical trials of Carnivac-Cov, which started last October, involved dogs, cats, Arctic foxes, minks, foxes and other animals,” said  Konstantin Savenkov, Deputy Head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s agricultural watchdog agency, in a statement announcing the vaccine.

“The results allow us to conclude that the vaccine is harmless and provides high immunity, in such as the animals who were tested developed antibodies to the coronavirus in 100% of cases,” added Savenkov.

Savenkov added that the shot currently provided immunity of up to 6 months — and could be in production in the coming weeks.

The Russian announcement came just a day after the World Health Organization issued a report exploring the origins of COVID-19 in China.  The WHO study offered no firm conclusions but suggested the most likely source lay in animals — specifically, a bat.

The U.S. has expressed reservations about what some US officials believe are the Chinese government’s efforts to skew the report's findings.

Studies have repeatedly documented select cases of COVID-19 infecting both domesticated and captive animals around the globe — including common household pets such as cats and dogs, as well as farmed mink and several animals in zoos.

Mutation fears

Scientists have raised concerns that the virus could subsequently mutate to other host animals — and eventually circulate back to humans.

Last November, Denmark ordered the mass extermination of 15 million mink after a mutated variation of COVID-19 was discovered on more than 200 farms in the region.

Danish officials noted the measure was grim necessity after a dozen people were found have been infected by a mutated COVID-19 strain.

Rosselkhoznadzor’s Savenkov said the new Russian vaccine was intended primarily to protect household pets and farmed captive animals important to the global economy — as well as the humans in contact with them.

“People and animals we live together on one planet and both are in contact with a great number of infections,” said Tatiana Galkina, a lead researcher behind Carnivac-Cov in a promotional video released to Youtube.

“Of course in the future, we’re not insured against new viral infections. Therefore science should keep advancing and be a step ahead,” added Galkina, while petting a purring cat.

Another video released to social media shows officials administering the vaccine to a plump white mink at a Russian fur farm.

While the inoculation will face further peer review, Carnivac-Cov appears the latest example of Russia’s flexing its scientific muscle in the global race against the coronavirus pandemic.

Last August, President Vladimir Putin claimed his nation was first to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 for humans with its Sputnik V inoculation. The announcement faced heavy skepticism for claiming a Russian victory before standard third phase trials had even begun.

Subsequent international reviews later showed the Russian vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 90%.