DC Zoo Cancels Holiday Events Because Children Can't Receive COVID Vaccines

The National Zoo is decorated for the Christmas Season on December 8, 2014 in Washington, DC. "ZooLights", when the zoo is illuminated by over 500,000 LED lights, will run from November 28 to January 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
October 7, 2021

Washington, D.C.'s National Zoo canceled its two most popular holiday events because children are ineligible to receive COVID vaccines, the zoo announced Wednesday.

"You can appreciate that the primary audience for Halloween events are children [who are] not able to be vaccinated at this time. Our priority is still to do everything we can to keep visitors, staff, and animals safe,"  spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson told DCist. "We all feel hopeful that 2022 will bring new opportunities."

The canceled events, "Boo at the Zoo" and "ZooLights," would have featured light displays around the 163-acre zoo and holiday-themed entertainment.

Although children under the age of 12 are ineligible to receive coronavirus vaccines, serious illness among minors is rare. States report that between 0.1 and 1.9 percent of children's COVID cases result in hospitalization, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pfizer requested the FDA approve use of its vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11, the company announced Thursday. The agency plans to make a decision on the request by the end of November.

Smithsonian's National Zoo reopened in May after it closed last fall amid rising coronavirus cases. The zoo also canceled the popular holiday events last year and instead opted for a mobile light display, which featured a man in a panda costume dancing on the bed of a holiday-themed truck. "ZooLights Express," which traveled around Washington, was ill-received among parents, who complained the truck's driver sped past children gathered on the side of the street.

"Maybe the driver was behind schedule and was sort of trying to make up time. But he very much just like stepped on the gas and kept going," one parent told DCist.

The zoo says it will not reprise the mobile light display this year.

Published under: Washington D.C.