Shark Allies, a California-based environmental protection organization for sharks, warned of the possibility of a high number of shark deaths in the production of a vaccine for Covid-19, since the liver of these animals has an essential ingredient.
At stake is the squalane, an ingredient found in a oil produced by shark liver and that it is used for medicinal purposes by the pharmaceutical industry, namely by GlaxoSmithKline. Squalane has been used to produce several vaccines for different coronaviruses and flu, including avian flu (MERS-CoV), swine flu (H1N1) and possibly Covid-19, when there is a vaccine for this disease.
According to Shark Allies, if for each human being a vaccine was produced with squalane derived from shark liver oil, 250,000 of those animals would have to be killed. And that number would increase to double if it is necessary to administer a second dose to each person who takes that vaccine – which, for now, does not exist in its final stage but is being developed in various parts of the world, with different criteria.
In a statement, the director of that NGO, Stefanie Brendl, said: “Harvesting something from a wild animal will never be sustainable, especially when it comes to a predator that does not breed in large quantities”.
In the text of a petition created by Shark Allies, that NGO stresses that squalane can be produced from sources other than animals: “It can be produced from yeast, bacteria, sugar cane, olive oil and possibly even algae”. In a statement, the biotechnology company Amyris, also based in California, has already made it known that it is studying the extraction of squalane from sugar cane which, as opposed to its production from shark liver, says it has “A lower cost”.