VENICE BEACH (USA)- In the race for a vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19, some vaccine candidates are made with squalene, a natural oil made in the liver of sharks. If everyone in the world would receive one dose, it would need 250.000 sharks.

Scientists actually say that two doses are needed per person. That means that it would take half a million sharks to be killed killed for their natural oil to produce the coronavirus vaccines. This was estimated by California-based conservation group Shark Allies.


Squalene is currently used as an adjuvant in medicine – an ingredient that increases the effectiveness of a vaccine by creating a stronger immune response. British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline currently uses shark squalene in flu vaccines. For one tonne of squalene it takes 3000 sharks. It is estimated that three million sharks are killed every year for squalene, which is also used in cosmetics and machine oil.

Many of the species targeted for being rich in squalene, such as the gulper shark and the basking shark, are classed as vulnerable, meaning that their populations are decreasing and they could become endangered if the circumstances threatening them continue.

Not sustainable

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.”

To avoid threatening shark populations, scientists are testing an alternative to squalene – a synthetic version made from fermented sugar cane.

Read more on the Shark Free Products Campaign of Shark Allies. Sign and share the petition on: Stop Using Sharks in COVID-19 Vaccine – Use EXISTING Sustainable Options.