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Half a million sharks could be killed to make Covid vaccines, wildlife experts say


Around half a million sharks could be slaughtered to make a Covid-19 vaccine, wildlife experts have claimed.

The top predators are harvested for squalene, a natural oil made in the liver of sharks and used as medicine – even with current flu shots.

The ingredient is used as an adjuvant to make a vaccine more effective by creating a stronger immune response.

It is used in some candidates for a Covid-19 vaccine.

If any of these vaccines were used globally, the Shark Allies conservation groups estimate that around 250,000 sharks would need to be slaughtered to provide a dose for each person.

However, some scientists believe that two doses might be required to immunize the population, meaning that around 500,000 sharks would need to be slaughtered, according to calculations by the California-based group.

Stefanie Brendl, founder and CEO of Shark Allies, said: “Harvesting anything from a wild animal will never be sustainable, especially if it is a top predator that does not reproduce in large numbers.

The top predators are harvested for squalene, a natural oil obtained from the liver of sharks that is used as medicine.

“There are so many unknowns about how big, how long this pandemic could last, and how many versions we have to go through, that if we continue to use sharks, the number of sharks used for this product could be very high. Year after year after year. & # 39;

On a Facebook post she added, “We're not trying to slow down or hinder the production of a vaccine.

Stefanie Brendl is the founder and CEO of Shark Allies, who have filed a petition against the use of squalene by sharks

Stefanie Brendl is the founder and CEO of Shark Allies, who have filed a petition against the use of squalene by sharks

“We are simply asking that non-animal squalene be tested alongside shark squalene so that it can be replaced as soon as possible.

“With the billions of doses needed each year for decades to come, it is important that we do not rely on any wildlife resource. It can adversely affect shark species that are hunted for their oil, and it is not a reliable supply chain. & # 39;

The group set up an online petition entitled "Stop the use of sharks in COVID-19 vaccines – Use existing sustainable options".

In the Change.or petition, which found nearly 9,500 signatures for the 10,000 target, the group states that there are "better alternatives" to using squalene in vaccines.

The group says the most common use of squalene made from shark liver oil is because it is "cheap to source" and "easy to get".

However, they say the chemical structure of the squalene compound is the same in sharks and non-animal alternatives, which means that its effectiveness in vaccines should be the same regardless of their source.

The group says the most common use of squalene made from shark liver oil is because it is "cheap to source" and "easy to get". Pictured: a graphic showing the anatomy of a shark

The group says the most common use of squalene made from shark liver oil is because it is "cheap to source" and "easy to obtain". Pictured: a graphic showing the anatomy of a shark

All plants and animals produce squalene as a biochemical intermediate and it can be made from non-animal sources such as yeast, sugar cane and olive oil.

What is squalene and why is it used in medicine?

Squalene is a natural oil that is produced in the liver of sharks and is used as medicine – even with current flu vaccinations.

The name comes from & # 39; Squalas & # 39; – a genus of dogfish shark.

The ingredient is used as an adjuvant to make a vaccine more effective by creating a stronger immune response.

It is used in some candidates for a Covid-19 vaccine.

Conservationists estimate that around three million sharks are killed each year for squalene, which is also used in cosmetics and machine oil.

However, all plants and animals produce squalene as a biochemical intermediate, including humans.

Conservationists have urged companies to use synthetic alternatives for the Covid-19 vaccine.

According to Shark Allies, a company, Amyris, a manufacturer of squalene in California's Silicon Valley, uses a process that extracts squalene from sugar cane.

In its latest statement, the company claims it could produce squalene for a billion vaccines in a month or less.

The company's synthetic squalene is not yet approved for use in vaccines.

However, the chief executive, John Melo, said he is in talks with regulators in the US to allow use as an alternative adjuvant in vaccines currently formulated for the use of shark-based squalene.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 40 vaccine candidates for Covid-19 in clinical evaluation and 142 vaccines in pre-clinical evaluation.

Shark Allies say 17 of these vaccines use adjuvants and five of these adjuvants are based on shark squalene.

The group has also raised concerns about the areas where sharks are slaughtered, saying they often come from countries that are “poorly regulated” in terms of fisheries and fish oil production.

Squalene is often sourced from small private fisheries in the Pacific from countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines and processed in China.

They warn that an increase in demand could put pressure on shark populations in these countries, as well as in Europe and the US, while voicing concerns about the already endangered swallowtail, which is rich in squalene.

Conservationists estimate that around three million sharks are killed each year for squalene, which is also used in cosmetics and machine oil.

Around 3,000 sharks are needed to extract a ton of squalene.

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