Is the Development of a Coronavirus Vaccine Causing the Mass Slaughtering of Sharks?

By Jasmine Wang

In the race to develop a new coronavirus vaccine, several companies have discovered the usefulness of squalene. Squalene is an oily compound that is created by shark livers and has immunity boosting powers. 

A group called Shark Allies has launched a campaign in an attempt to convince the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies to stop the use of squalene in the development of the coronavirus vaccine for fear that it would lead to the harvesting of tissue of over 500000 sharks.

Although this campaign has caused quite a large uproar, the facts that they’re based on may not be accurate. 

Shark Allies have been targeting the two companies GlaxoSmithKline and Seqirus. Their current vaccines use about 10 milligrams of squalene per dose. Shark Allies used statistics that estimated that between 2500 and 3000 sharks are needed per metric ton of squalene and then extrapolated to get the widely quoted, and most likely inaccurate, numbers that tabulate the potential ecological toll these vaccines will have on sharks. 

Their numbers are unrealistic because sharks vary in size, weight, and liver squalene content, so the amount of squalene each shark produces varies, so there is a very large range for the number of sharks needed to yield enough squalene-adjuvanted vaccine doses to treat everyone on Earth. 

Many potential vaccines do not rely on shark based squalene. Additionally, multiple different vaccines will most likely be used to increase the effectiveness of diminishing coronavirus cases.



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