Rural areas of low-to-middle-income countries host most biodiversity hotspots, where interactions between people and wildlife are frequent. These regions have less access to vaccines than do urban centres (Local Burden of Disease Vaccine Coverage Collaborators Nature 589, 415–419; 2021).
Given the broad potential range of hosts for SARS-CoV-2, we suggest that vaccinating often-neglected populations around protected areas will reduce the risk of people infecting wildlife and creating secondary reservoirs of disease, and thence risking potential reinfection of humans with new variants. This should be considered after vaccination of priority groups, such as older people and health workers.
Vaccinating people who live near felids, non-human primates, bats and other animals protects wildlife and limits ‘reverse spillovers’. Such events have been documented for various human respiratory viruses, for instance in wild great apes in west Africa (S. Köndgen et al. Curr. Biol. 18, 260–264; 2008).
Non-standard actors, such as national park authorities or conservation organizations, could help vaccination to reach remote regions. This is called a One Health approach: it protects the health of people, animals and the environment.
Nature 591, 369 (2021)