Conservationists warn that up to half a million sharks could be killed to produce the coronavirus vaccine. Sharks produce squalene, the natural oil in their livers, that’s used in vaccines around the world.

Squalene is used to create a stronger immune response in the vaccine, therefore increasing its efficacy. GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company, uses squalene from sharks in its flu vaccine and the company said it would use squalene in coronavirus vaccines when they become available.

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3,000 sharks are needed to produce a single tonne of squalene. Shark Allies, an activist group based in California, suggests that 250,000 sharks would need to be killed to produce enough squalene for coronavirus vaccine doses to cover the world.

Stefanie Brendl, founder and executive director of Shark Allies, said, “Harvesting something from a wild animal is never going to be sustainable, especially if it’s a top predator that doesn’t reproduce in huge numbers. There’s so many unknowns of how big and how long this pandemic might go on, and then how many versions of it we have to go through, that if we continue using sharks, the numbers of sharks taken for this product could be really high, year after year after year.”

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3 million sharks are already killed each year for squalene, which is also used in makeup and machine oil. Read more about cruelty-free makeup and squalene in One Green Planet, check out these articles:

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