Fire at Serum Institute Pune claims five lives; Covishield vaccine production unaffected

By: |
January 22, 2021 7:15 AM

Adar Poonawalla, CEO, SII, said there would be no loss of Covishield production due to multiple production buildings kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies. The five workers who lost their lives were not employees of SII, but construction workers working on the site. Two of the dead were from Uttar Pradesh, two from Pune and one from Bihar.

Fire breaks out at Serum Institute of India Pune plantFire breaks out at Serum Institute of India's Pune plant: Smoke billows out after a massive fire broke out at the Serum Institute of India, in Pune. (PTI photo)

A fire accident at the vaccine manufacturing facility of Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune on Thursday, which claimed five people, will not impact the production of the Covishield vaccines.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO, SII, said there would be no loss of Covishield production due to multiple production buildings kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies. The five workers who lost their lives were not employees of SII, but construction workers working on the site. Two of the dead were from Uttar Pradesh, two from Pune and one from Bihar.

The Covishield Covid-19 vaccine is being manufactured from this campus at an adjacent building.

The fire was reported in part of the building near the BCG vaccine line. SII is expanding its Covishield Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing in this Manjari campus and this facility is critical to SII’s expansion plans to make 100 million doses a month from this month onwards. SII has a stockpile of 70 million vaccines and the stock was safe.

The fire broke at the SEZ at the Manjari campus at around 2 pm and may have been caused by welding activity, district administration has indicated. The fire started on the second floor and spread to the third, fourth and fifth floors of the building. Poonawalla initially said there was no loss of life, but he later confirmed that five construction workers had died.

The victims were all labourers working on the fifth floor of the building, where construction work was in progress, Maharashtra’s health minister Rajesh Tope told media persons. They were rescued and taken to government Sassoon Hospital but died in the hospital, Tope said.

Fifteen fire tenders were pressed into service and the major part of the fire was brought under control by around 4.10 pm, but the fire was still raging in some parts of the building.

Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar has ordered an enquiry into the fire at the SII campus. There is a lot of concern across the country about safety and impact on the production of Covid-19 vaccines, but the company had assured him that there was no damage to the vaccines and and this part of the campus was safe, Pawar said.

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