Five dead after fire breaks out at world’s biggest Covid vaccine facility in Pune, India

Fire Alert_1

Five people have died after a blaze erupted at the headquarters the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine manufacturer. Huge plumes of smoke were seen today billowing from the Serum Institute of India (SII) complex, in the western city of Pune. The site is producing millions of doses of the Covishield Covid vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It is not known what caused the blaze, which was brought under control after about three hours but is still not fully extinguished.

The SII have said the production of the vaccine would not be affected by the blaze. Pune’s police department tweeted: ‘We mourn the unfortunate demise of the five people.’ The force said it would ‘conduct a thorough screening of the premises once the fire is doused’.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: ‘Anguished by the loss of lives due to an unfortunate fire at the @SerumInstIndia ‘In this sad hour, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest.’ The Maharashtra government said the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault during construction work. SII is manufacturing a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca for India and many other low- and middle-income countries. The company is also getting ready to produce a vaccine being developed by the U.S. company Novavax Inc.

SII Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla tweeted: ‘I would like to reassure all governments & the public that there would be no loss of COVISHIELD production due to multiple production buildings that I had kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies.’ Poonawalla, whose family owns SII told media the fire would mean delays in launching new products and revenue losses of more than 10 billion rupees (£100million), adding that equipment worth millions of dollars has been damaged. But a source familiar with the matter said manufacturing of Covid-19 shots would not be affected and that none of the new production equipment for vaccines was housed in the building that caught fire. The company announced a compensation of 2.5 million rupees (£25,000) for families of the people who died at the ‘under-installation facility’.

This month Indian regulators approved two vaccines, Covishield, produced by the Serum Institute, and Covaxin, made by Bharat Biotech, based in Hyderabad. India launched one of the world’s largest vaccine rollouts on Saturday, with the aim of inoculating 300million people by July. The country exported its first batch of the Covishield vaccine on Wednesday, to Bhutan and the Maldives. It has also sent 2million doses to Bangladesh and 1million to Nepal. India plans to offer 20million doses to neighbouring countries in South Asia, followed by Latin America, Africa and Central Asia.

Courtesy of metro.co.uk

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