PUNI, India (AP) – A fire broke out on Thursday in a building under construction at the Serum Institute in India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, which could affect its future expansion of COVID-19 vaccine production.
Firefighters put out the blaze, the fire service in the town of Pune in southern Maharashtra said. The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage are not immediately clear.
“We rescued three people and there are no casualties,” said firefighter Prashant Ranpize, who oversaw the rescue operations.
The company said the fire was limited to a new facility it was building to increase production of COVID-1
According to him, the fire did not affect existing facilities producing vaccines against COVID-19, or a stockpile of about 50 million doses.
“So far, the most important thing is that there are no casualties or serious injuries due to the fire, although several floors have been destroyed,” said the company’s CEO Adar Poonavala.
The images showed huge streams of smoke billowing from the building as firefighters worked to put out the blaze. Dozens of company employees in laboratory suits left the complex.
The Serum Institute in India is the largest producer of vaccines in the world and has a contract to produce one billion doses of AstraZeneca / Oxford University vaccine.
Poonawalla said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that he hopes to increase production capacity from 1.5 billion doses to 2.5 billion doses per year by the end of 2021. The new facility is key to expansion.
Of the more than 12 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have the option to buy even more. As a result, the serum institute is likely to make most of the vaccines that will be used by developing countries.