Fire kills 5 at Serum Institute, vaccine production ‘not affected’

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
A smoke rises from a fire at the Serum Institute of India in Pune, India January 21, 2021. Picture: Reuters/Stringer
A smoke rises from a fire at the Serum Institute of India in Pune, India January 21, 2021. Picture: Reuters/Stringer

NEWS


The Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, said on Thursday that production of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine would not be affected by a deadly fire at its headquarters in Maharashtra state.

Videos and pictures from Reuters partner ANI showed black smoke billowing from a multi-storey building in the SSI's massive complex in the city of Pune. The blaze, which police said killed five people, had been brought under control but not extinguished.

"We mourn the unfortunate demise of the five people," Pune's police department said on Twitter. We "will conduct a thorough screening of the premises once the fire is doused".

The Maharashtra government said the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault during construction work.

The Sereum Institute has licensed the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and was also planning to start stockpiling up to 50 million doses a month of a vaccine candidate developed by Novavax Inc from around April.

South Africa is expected to receive 1.5 million doses of the vaccine from the institute. However, reports in South Africa suggested that the country will pay a hefty premium compared to countries in the European Union, including the US.

Read: SA in vaccine roll-out crisis

Many low- and middle-income countries, from Bangladesh to Brazil, are depending on the institute to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine, branded Covishield by the Indian company.

"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," the institute’s Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said on Twitter.

Poonawalla, whose family owns the Serum Institute, was quoted as saying by broadcaster CNBC-TV18 that the fire would mean delays in launching new products and revenue losses of more than 10 billion rupees (R2 billion). Equipment worth millions of dollars has been damaged, he said.

But a source familiar with the matter said the 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 for families of the people who died at the "under-installation facility".

The institute is producing around 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine a month at other facilities in the complex, with plans to increase that to as much as 100 million doses soon.


facebook
twitter
linkedin
instagram

Delivering the 

news you need

+27 11 713 9001
news@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24

E-Editions

Read the digital editions of City Press here.
Read now
Voting Booth
The EFF has sent a legal letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office, demanding that the lockdown regulations be relaxed to allow political gatherings in compliance with all Covid-19 protocols. The party said that regulations prohibit political campaigning and activities in preparation for this year’s local government elections.
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Like church members, political party members should gather
16% - 4 votes
I fear the third wave
48% - 12 votes
Hold off on the elections
36% - 9 votes
Vote