New Delhi – Five people were killed in a fire that broke out in the sprawling complex of the Serum Institute in India, one of the largest vaccine production facilities in the world, which currently produces millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford / AstraZeneca.
The fire broke out Thursday afternoon in a building that is still under construction on a 100-acre site in the southwestern city of Pune. It was under control until Thursday night, but at least two of the top floors of the five-story building were gutted.
“Today is an extremely sad day for all of us at the Serum Institute in India. Unfortunately, there was a loss of life in the fire,” said Adar Poonavala, executive director and owner of the Serum Institute in India. He said the families of the victims would be offered “compensation” of about $ 34,000 each, in addition to each mandatory payment.
Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol confirmed that five people had died. Their bodies were removed from the charred floors of the building.
Earlier in the day, Poonawalla said that the production of the coronavirus vaccine, produced in India under the Covishield brand, would not be affected by the fire.
Police and firefighters said the fire would be investigated. The reason is not immediately clear.
The Serum Institute began delivering hundreds of thousands of doses of Covishield just last week. He says there should be 100 million doses produced by March.
India launched what was described as the biggest drive for mass vaccinations on Saturday. The government plans to immunize 300 million people by July. Along with the Covishield shots, India will also use Covaxin, an internal vaccine produced by Bharat Biotech.
The Serum Institute in India is the world’s largest producer of vaccines by volume, producing 1.5 billion doses of drugs a year to fight a number of diseases, including polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella. Its products are exported to more than 170 countries.
Several middle- and low-income countries rely on the Serum Institute to supply their stockpiles of coronavirus vaccine through global,. The project, aimed at ensuring the fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide, has secured an order for 200 million doses of serum.
Bangladesh, Nepal and several countries in Africa and Central Asia are expecting their first deliveries to Covishield in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, India released the first batches of the Oxford serum vaccine to Bhutan and the Maldives.
The UK’s mass vaccination plan also relies mainly on Oxford / AstraZeneca, but this stock is produced in the UK.