As the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread worldwide, scientists are working to find a cure for the disease. Around half a million sharks face slaughter as the drug companies are working to find a cure for the disease made from their livers, as per reports.
An important ingredient in a few forms of vaccine now under development is squalene, which is a natural oil that is harvested from sharks. GlaxoSmithKline already uses the squalene in the adjuvant, which is a substance used to make a stronger immune response, in flu vaccines.
The company said that it is going to manufacture a billion doses of the adjuvant for the probable use in coronavirus vaccines. This can cause a disaster for sharks and might push the vulnerable species to extinction, US-based group Shark Allies said.
Sharks in Danger Due to COVID-19
The group also has an online petition that calls to stop using sharks for vaccines. They asked for the scientists to use a plant-based alternative. Around 3,000 sharks are needed to make one ton of squalene. As per estimates, for the immunization of the world, 250,000 thousand sharks might be required for a single dose, and this number doubles if two doses are required.
"Squalene made from shark liver oil is used most commonly because it is cheap to obtain and easy to come by, not because it is more effective than other sources. This could spell potential disaster for sharks and humans since this resource is neither sustainable nor reliable for the mass production of a Covid-19 vaccine," Shark Allies stated. "Shark squalene production requires relying on a finite, wild animal population. Most shark species are already at critical levels and will not withstand an increase in demand for a global vaccine," the group added.
For many years the squalene has been used to treat and prevent diseases. Activists are currently worried that the race to develop a vaccine can lead to a rapid increase of shark killings. Shark squalene is cheaper as it takes much less time compared to olive oil squalene. "We want to make this clear, Shark Allies is no way asking these companies to slow down the process of a Covid-19 vaccine. Instead, we are asking these companies to replace the shark squalene in some of these vaccine adjuvants with alternative non-animal-derived squalene," the group said.
According to conservationists, around three million sharks are killed each year to get their liver oil for various uses that include cosmetics and machine oil. Many of the species like the gulper shark and basking shark are mostly targeted for being rich in squalene.