Five people were killed in a massive fire that engulfed a building under construction at the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, which is producing millions of doses of the British developed AstraZeneca vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
The company, located in the western city of Pune, said the production of vaccines will not be affected by the blaze.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, affordable and easy to store, is seen as vital to bringing the pandemic under control both in India, where a nationwide inoculation program began last week and in many developing countries that are depending on the doses being made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to launch their vaccination drives.
“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,” chief executive of SII, Adar Poonawalla, said on Twitter.
The fire apparently affected a new facility that was being built to increase its manufacturing capability for vaccines. Television footage showed black smoke billowing from the building. It was brought under control by firefighters after three hours.
State officials said the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault and “welding sparks” during construction work. (AP/VOA)