Shark-based coronavirus vaccines spark controversy, conservationists launch campaign to prevent their use
“Using sharks in COVID-19 vaccines is short-sighted, unpredictable, and unsustainable,” the petition says. “There are better alternatives. The industry must listen.”
More than 58,000 people have signed the petition, which was launched about a month ago.
“Shark squalene has been used as the main ingredient in some adjuvants to boost efficacy in vaccines,” the petition adds. “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.”
An adjuvant is an ingredient in some vaccines that creates a stronger immune response, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Shark Allies’ petition warns that the use of shark squalene could spell “potential disaster” for humans and sharks, noting that the resource is neither sustainable nor reliable for the mass production of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“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 conservationists say. “Countries producing shark squalene may soon need the oil for their own vaccine.”
The shark squalene supply chain has never been tested at the level that a coronavirus vaccine would require, they add, also voicing concerns about quality control.
In its “Draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines” published on Oct. 2, the World Health Organization notes a candidate vaccine with a squalene adjuvant but does not describe the source of the squalene.
The Shark Allies petition calls for the urgent use of non-animal squalene in place of animal squalene.
In addition to shark liver oil, squalene can also be found in olive oil, wheat germ oil and rice bran oil, according to information on the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine website.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers