Serum Institute: Five killed in fire at world’s largest vaccine manufacturer

21 January 2021, 15:32

Workers wearing protective gear walk away from the fire India's Serum Institute
Workers wearing protective gear walk away from the fire India's Serum Institute. Picture: Getty

By Patrick Grafton-Green

At least five people have been killed in a fire at the world's largest vaccine manufacturer in India.

The blaze at the Serum Institute of India broke out on Thursday afternoon in a building which is under construction.

The company said production of the Covid-19 vaccine would not be affected.

The Serum Institute has been contracted to manufacture a billion doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine.

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Images showed huge plumes of smoke billowing from the building and dozens of company workers in lab suits leaving the compound as firefighters battled to extinguish the fire.

Murlidhar Mohol, mayor of Pune city in southern Maharashtra state, said five bodies were found in the rubble after the flames were put out.

He said the victims were probably construction workers.

Mr Mohol added that the cause of the fire was not yet known and the extent of damage not immediately clear.

Smoke rises from the blaze at the Serum Institute of India
Smoke rises from the blaze at the Serum Institute of India. Picture: Getty

The Serum Institute's chief executive Adar Poonwala said he was "deeply saddened" by the loss of life.

He said there would be no reduction in vaccine manufacturing.

The company said the fire did not affect facilities making the Covid-19 vaccine or a stockpile of around 50 million doses.

The fire was restricted to a new facility being constructed to increase production of the vaccine and ensure it is better prepared for future pandemics, it added.

The Serum Institute is likely to play a key role in producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for developing nations.