An advocacy group for sharks-‘Shark Allies’ has warned that at least 500,000 sharks around the world could be killed in the process of developing a vaccine.
It is to be mentioned that sharks are harvested for a natural oil that is being used in the Covdi-19 vaccine candidates.
This natural oil is called squalene, which is currently used as an adjuvant in medicine – an ingredient that increases the effectiveness of a vaccine by creating a stronger immune response.
Notably around 3,000 sharks are needed to extract one tonne of squalene.
According to Shark Allies, for many years, squalene-adjuvanted vaccines have been used to treat or prevent diseases such as different strains of influenza and coronaviruses (H1N1, H5N1, H7N9, H7N7, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV, influenza, and rabies). Some vaccines with a shark squalene-based adjuvant are currently being used in the market to prevent influenza. Additionally, there are companies such as GSK, Seqirus, and Clover Biopharmaceuticals, that are producing squalene-based adjuvants or using those adjuvants in the testing of COVID-19 vaccines.
Several of the adjuvants used in COVID-19 vaccines currently being tested use shark squalene, while the squalene source for others are unconfirmed. MF59 is a common adjuvant containing shark-derived squalene that has been tested in the treatment of MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and in the use of an influenza vaccine. It is also currently being tested in COVID-19 vaccines.
Since MF59 has been used as a component of other coronavirus treatments, it may be effective in COVID-19 vaccines.
As a result, the demand for shark squalene could skyrocket, leading to a significant increase in the killing and harvesting of sharks for their livers.
MF59 is only one of the adjuvants containing squalene that is being used in COVID-19 vaccine testing.