About 500,000 sharks could be killed for their natural oil for the production of coronavirus vaccines conservationists have warned, reports Sky News.
According to the report, one ingredient used in some coronavirus vaccine candidates is squalene, a natural oil made in the liver of sharks.
‘Squalene is currently used as an adjuvant in medicine – an ingredient that increases the effectiveness of a vaccine by creating a stronger immune response.’
GlaxoSmithKline British pharmaceutical company uses shark squalene in flu vaccines.
Reportedly, the company said it would manufacture a billion doses of this adjuvant for potential use in COVID-19 vaccines in May.
One tonne of squalene is extracted from nearly 3,000 sharks.
Shark Allies, a California-based group, suggests that ‘if the world’s population received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine containing the liver oil, around 250,000 sharks would need to be slaughtered, depending on the amount of squalene used’
However, according to researchers, two doses might be needed to immunise the global population, which would increase the number of sharks to be killed to half a million.
Reportedly, to avoid the threat to shark populations, scientists are testing an alternative to squalene – a synthetic version made from fermented sugar cane. “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. 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,” Sky News quoted Stefanie Brendl, founder and executive director of Shark Allies, as saying.
About three million sharks are killed every year for squalene that is also used in machine oil and cosmetics. A sudden rise in the demand of squalene can threaten the populations of the sharks.