Half a million sharks could be killed in bid to make Covid vaccine, wildlife experts say

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About half a million sharks could be slaughtered in an attempt to make a Covid-19 vaccine, wildlife experts have said.

The main predators are harvested for squalene, a natural oil made in the liver of sharks, which is used as a medicine – including in current flu vaccines.

The ingredient is used as an adjuvant to increase the effectiveness of a vaccine by creating a stronger immune response.

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

If any of these vaccines are used around the world, the environmental group Shark Allies thinks around 250,000 sharks will need to be slaughtered to provide a dose for each person.

However, some scientists believe that two doses may be needed to immunize the population, meaning that around 500,000 sharks should be slaughtered, according to calculations by the California-based group.

Stefanie Brendl, Founder and Executive Director of Shark Allies, said: “Harvesting anything from a wild animal will never be sustainable, especially if it is a top predator that does not breed large. number.

The main predators are harvested for squalene, a natural oil made in shark liver, which is used as a medicine.

“There are so many unknowns about the extent and duration of this pandemic, and then how many versions we have to go through, that if we continue to use sharks, the number of sharks caught for this product could be very high, year after year after year.

In a Facebook post, she added: “We are not trying to slow down or hinder the production of a vaccine.

Stefanie Brendl is the founder and CEO of Shark Allies, which started a petition against the use of shark squalene

Stefanie Brendl is the founder and CEO of Shark Allies, which started a petition against the use of shark squalene

“We are simply asking that tests on non-animal squalene be conducted with shark squalene so that it can be replaced as soon as possible.

“At the billions of doses needed per year, for decades to come, it is essential that we do not depend on a wild animal resource. This can be detrimental to the shark species that are hunted for their oil, and it is not a reliable supply chain ”.

The group has set up an online petition titled “Stop Using Sharks in COVID-19 Vaccine – Use EXISTING Sustainable Options”.

In the Change.or petition, which has drawn nearly 9,500 signatures on its 10,000 goal, the group says there are “better alternatives” to the use of squalene in vaccines.

The group claims that squalene made from shark liver oil is used most often because it is “cheap to get” and “easy to find.”

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

The group says squalene made from shark liver oil is the most commonly used because it is

The group claims that squalene made from shark liver oil is most commonly used because it is “cheap to get” and “easy to find.” Pictured: A graphic showing the anatomy of a shark

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

What is squalene and why is it used medicinally?

Squalene is a natural oil made in shark liver, which is used medicinally – including in current flu vaccines.

The name comes from “Squalas” – a genus of dogfish shark.

The ingredient is used as an adjuvant to increase the effectiveness of a vaccine by creating a stronger immune response.

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

According to estimates by conservationists, 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.

Environmentalists have called on companies to use synthetic alternatives in the Covid-19 vaccine.

Shark Allies claims that a company, Amyris, one of the producers of squalene, based in Silicon Valley, California, uses a process that derives squalene from sugar cane.

In its most recent statement, the company says it can 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, its chief executive, John Melo, said he was in talks with US regulators to allow it to be used as an alternative adjuvant in vaccines currently formulated to use shark-based squalene.

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

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

The group also voiced concerns about areas where sharks are slaughtered and said they often came from countries “poorly regulated in terms of fishing and fish oil production”.

Squalene is often sourced from small private fishing operations in the Pacific Ocean in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, and processed in China.

They warn that an increase in demand could increase pressure on shark populations in these countries, as well as in Europe and the United States, while raising concerns about the already vulnerable ravine shark – which is rich in squalene.

According to estimates by conservationists, around three million sharks are killed each year for squalene, which is also used in cosmetics and machine oil.

About 3000 sharks are needed to extract a ton of squalene.

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