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Half A Million Sharks May Be Killed To Make Coronavirus Vaccines To Save Humans, Say Experts

Half A Million Sharks May Be Killed To Make Coronavirus Vaccines To Save Humans, Say Experts

3,000 sharks are slaughtered for one metric ton of squalene, which is used to increase the effectiveness of a vaccine, and in turn, will create a stronger immune system.

Image Source: Getty Images/Rodrigo Friscione

Cover image used for representational purposes only

Wildlife experts claim that nearly half a million sharks may be slaughtered in an effort to make a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Daily Mail. Usually, the predators are hunted for squalene, a natural oil made in the liver of sharks, which is harvested and used as medicine. Squalene is used to increase the effectiveness of a vaccine, which, in turn, will create a stronger immune system. It is also being used in some of the candidates for a COVID-19 vaccine. If one of those vaccines are to be used all over the world, then around 250,000 sharks will need to be killed to provide one dose for each person, as per conservationist group Shark Allies.



 

 

However, some scientists believe that people might need two doses, which means that around 500,000 sharks would need to be slaughtered, according to the California-based group's calculations. 3,000 sharks are slaughtered for one metric ton of squalene. "Harvesting something from a wild animal is never going to be sustainable, especially if it's a top predator that doesn't reproduce in huge numbers," said Stefanie Brendl, founder and executive director of Shark Allies. "There's so many unknowns of how big and how long this pandemic might go on, and then how many versions of it we have to go through, that if we continue using sharks, the numbers of sharks taken for this product could be really high, year after year after year."



 

In a Facebook post, Brendl shared: New Shark Allies campaign. Yes, squalene made from sharks is used in vaccine adjuvants, including some of the COVID19 front runners, even though squalene made from plants is readily available, has the same chemical composition and same efficacy, and can be reproduced sustainably, with greater quality control. No, we are not trying to slow down or hinder the production of a vaccine. We simply ask that testing of non-animal derived squalene is conducted alongside shark squalene so it can be replaced as soon as possible. At billions of doses needed per year, for decades to come, it is critical that we don't rely on a wild animal resource.



 

 

It can be detrimental to shark species that are hunted for their oil, and it is not a reliable supply chain. Pharmaceutical companies should choose the ingredients that can be reproduced quickly and reliable for mass production. Squalene can be made from olive oil, sugarcane, bacteria, and potentially even from algae. Shark oil is mostly produced in countries that have little regulation or transparency, and that could easily corner the market and control access to the amount of shark oil that makes it to our manufacturers. The sooner we can switch, the more independent we can be. And in the process avoid a mad rush to harvest sharks for their oil.



 

 

Basically, squalene isn't found exclusively in sharks, it can be found in non-animal alternatives, too, but it's not as easy as obtaining it from sharks, even though the effect is the same. Some of the non-animal-based sources include yeast, sugarcane, and olive oil. According to Shark Allies, Amyris, one of the producers of squalene, based in California's Silicon Valley, uses a process that derives squalene from sugarcane. A recent statement by the company claims it can produce squalene for one billion vaccines in one month or less. However, the company still doesn't have approval for the use of synthetic squalene in vaccines.



 

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