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Coronavirus vaccine for fur farm animals under development

The vaccine now being tested in Finland is aimed at protecting minks and raccoon dogs.

A vaccine is being tested, but as of yet there is no estimate of when the project may be completed. Image: EPA-EFE/All Over Press

A vaccine providing protection from the coronavirus for minks and raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) is being developed by the Finnish Fur Breeders' Association in cooperation with the University of Helsinki.

According to current data, mink are easily susceptible to coronavirus. Under laboratory conditions, the virus has also infected raccoon dogs. Foxes are not known to have become infected.

The vaccine is currently in the testing phase, and testing is expected to take several months. Researchers say that as of yet it is not possible to provide an estimate as to when the vaccine will be ready for production and distribution.

Mink farms in the Netherlands and Denmark have seen coronavirus outbreaks among their animals. The coronavirus is a zoonosis, a disease that can be transmitted between animals and humans.

A vaccine providing protection to animals would eliminate major concerns by Finnish fur farmers about the future of the industry, according to Fur Breeders' Association research director Jussi Peura.

Coronavirus infections among mink have been detected in 10 countries. In most cases, both the infected animals and other minks have been destroyed on the farms where the virus has been found. Sweden has taken a different approach, monitoring animals and fur farms showing infections, but not ordering the animals to be put down.

Peura says that the Finnish Fur Breeders' Association has created working methods since last spring to reduce the risk of infection. No coronavirus infections have been detected during monitoring of mink farms by the Finnish Food Authority.

"In Finland, fur breeders have done double work, both protecting themselves and also animals on the farms. The vaccine would greatly ease their job," Peura points out.

Peura also notes that Finland is in a better position to fight the virus than many other countries, as some of the fur animals raised are foxes in which the virus has not been detected. In addition, the network of fur farms is spread out over a large area.

Coronavirus vaccines for pets are also reportedly being developed in the USA and Russia. The coronavirus has also been found to infect cats.