Vaccinating Bunnies – CBS News

From the vials to the volunteers to the constant stream of vehicles, the clinic in Gig Harbor, Washington, looks like one of the mass vaccination events happening everywhere these days. That is, until you take a closer look at patients, like Maise and Gus.

Maise the rabbit is not here to get a COVID shot; she and dozens of other rabbits have come to get vaccinated against RHDV2 (rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus).

While humans are not affected by the disease, the highly contagious virus is bad news for rabbits. First identified in China in the 1980s, the initial RHDV outbreak killed more than 140 million rabbits This new strain, RHDVtwo, appeared in France in 2010. In 2019, Washington received its first case.

Dr. Alicia McLaughlin was the first veterinarian in the country to import the vaccine. Since RHDV2 has historically been a European disease, no American company has produced a vaccine; you had to get special permission to bring it to the US.

A pet rabbit that is being vaccinated against RHDV2.

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“We had people who were desperate, you know, calling our clinic over and over again, ‘Hey, we really want this vaccine. Please let us get this vaccine,'” he told correspondent Conor Knighton.

The vaccine, Dr. McLaughlin said, “is over 90% effective, which, as we know again from the COVID vaccine material, that’s really good. We’re very happy with that. Considering the alternative is almost 100% fatality, is Really all right.”

Today, RHDV2 cases have been identified in several states.. But, since so few veterinarians have obtained the vaccine, finding one dose can still be a test.

Knighton asked, “How far do people go to get the vaccine?”

“Several hours,” Dr. McLaughlin replied. “I have not seen an upper limit for the distance that people are willing to travel to receive the vaccine.”


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Sue Brennan, owner of the Gig Harbor Rabbit Haven Rescue, has been the driving force behind the mass vaccination clinics. He showed Knighton “Ruth Bunner Ginsburg.”

“Rabbits don’t have many champions. Somehow I connected soul to soul with them, and I do my best to make their life fulfilling, better, happy,” Brennan said.

Through a partnership with a local vet, Brennan’s group has given nearly a thousand injections: “What we’re trying to do is like what they’re doing with COVID: vaccinate everyone, stop the spread, stop the disease. people can go back to normal, rabbits can go back to normal. “

The rabbits have been under an unofficial order to stay home. The virus can remain on surfaces, including lawns, so it cannot go out into the garden. They should definitely not mix with other rabbits outside of their “herd”.


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Right now, the worst RHDV2 outbreak is in the west and southwest, where a new variant has gone from domestic rabbits to wild rabbits.

In California, the Oakland Zoo, in cooperation with federal and state wildlife agencies, has been testing and vaccinating endangered riparian scrub rabbits in case the virus reaches this small population of white rabbits.

Prevention is better than cure, so even though there hasn’t been a confirmed case in Washington for over a year, Dr. McLaughlin still vaccinates her patients regularly.

Knighton asked, “When you give those injections and send a fully vaccinated rabbit on the way, how does it feel?”

“Ah, I love doing it. It makes me so happy!” She answered. “It’s like I’m kicking the virus in the face! Like, ‘Take that! You can’t take this bunny!'”

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Story edited by Remington Korper.


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