Routine Vaccinations of Wild Hawaiian Monk Seals to Begin on Oʻahu

February 16, 2016

First 2015 seal patients for rehabilitation.

NOAA will begin routine vaccinations of wild Hawaiian monk seals in February 2016 on Oʻahu. There is no disease outbreak affecting monk seals at this time. However, due to its potentially devastating impact on the endangered monk seal population, NOAA has been working with partners to develop a plan for vaccinating monk seals against morbillivirus. The disease could possibly be passed to monk seals by unvaccinated dogs that contract distemper or from other marine mammals such as whales and dolphins or other wayward seal species. Once introduced into seals, it is anticipated that the disease would spread rapidly by respiratory secretions. Researchers studying monk seals have determined that the best way to protect them is by vaccinating them well in advance of the introduction of this disease, rather than in the face of an outbreak. Vaccination poses little risk to seals, as it can be easily administered and no adverse effects have been observed in trials. The initial effort will focus on Oʻahu and is expected to continue into October. More information on why and how seals will be vaccinated is available here.