“Deeply Saddened”: Adar Poonawala On Serum Institute Fire

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A massive fire broke out at an under construction building at the Serum Institute in Pune.

New Delhi:

Serum Institute of India chief Adar Poonawala on Thursday said that he was deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the fire at the vaccine-maker’s facility in Pune which is at the heart of India’s fight against the coronavirus. Five people have died in the fire.

He had earlier said there will be no impact on the manufacturing of vaccines.

Before the news of the deaths, he had said, “Thank you everyone for your concern and prayers. So far the most important thing is that there have been no lives lost or major injuries due to the fire, despite a few floors being destroyed.”

A massive fire broke out at a building that is under construction at Serum Institute but officials said it is unlikely to hit the production of Covishield, the coronavirus vaccine developed by the Oxford University and British-Swedish pharma firm AstraZeneca and being made at the facility.

An official at the local fire station told news agency AFP that six or seven firetrucks had reached the site as thick clouds of grey smoke were seen billowing from the sprawling campus in Pune, spread over 100 acres.

Eight or nine buildings are under construction at the complex to enhance the manufacturing capability.

Serum Institute — founded in 1966 by Cyrus Poonawalla — is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, producing 1.5 billion doses a year even before the coronavirus pandemic.

It makes vaccines against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella, which are exported to more than 170 countries.

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The company has spent nearly a billion dollars in recent years enlarging and improving the giant Pune campus.

In January, Indian regulators approved two vaccines — Covishield, produced by the Serum Institute, and Covaxin, made by local firm Bharat Biotech.

India began one of the world’s biggest vaccine rollouts on Saturday, aiming to vaccinate 300 million people by July with both Covishield and Covaxin.

Many other countries are relying on the Serum Institute to supply them with the vaccine.

(With inputs from AFP)

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