Half a million sharks could be killed for COVID-19 vaccine, experts warn

Nearly 500,000 sharks could be wiped out for the production of a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Sharks produce squalene oil, a natural substance which is found in their livers.
  • Shark Allies, a non-profit organization, warns that the production of vaccines which use an adjuvant could wipe out around 500,000 sharks.
  • The organization has created a petition asking vaccine manufacturers to consider other options.

Squalene oil is an adjuvant used in vaccines. 

Squalene is a natural oil which is found in the livers of sharks and is currently used as an adjuvant in medicine. CTV News explains that ‘an adjuvant is a substance added to vaccines to spur a more robust immune response. It can also lower the level of vaccine needed for each patient, which could be very valuable for a vaccine that needs to be produced for a large number of people at once’. In the fight against the Coronavirus, companies are looking to produce vaccines and several manufacturers – such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) – have announced that they will be using shark-based adjuvants. Taking this further, Sky News reported that in May, the British pharmaceutical company GSK had said that it would manufacture a billion doses of this adjuvant for potential use in COVID-19 vaccines.

It is estimated that 489,702 sharks will be killed to provide enough squalene for vaccines. 

These figures could be more as Shark Allies explains that ‘it is likely that more than one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be needed per person, or that a COVID-19 vaccine would need to be given seasonally, similar to flu vaccines’. As a result, the non-profit organization has taken action and created a petition asking vaccine manufacturers to rethink the way they make adjuvants. The change.org petition is titled ‘Stop using sharks in Covid-19 vaccine – use EXISTING sustainable options’ and so far, it has received over 10,000 signatures.

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