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Fire at Serum Institute of India, production site of COVID-19 vaccine

Reports have said five people have been killed in a fire at the Serum Institute of India, where the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is being made.

COVID-19 vaccine

According to reports, a fire at the Serum Institute of India (SII) has killed five people. However, government officials have said that this would not affect production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that is being made at the facility. 

As reported by Reuters, black smoke could be seen coming out of the multi-storey building in SII’s headquarter complex in the city of Pune in Maharashtra state.

“We have learnt that there has unfortunately been some loss of life at the incident. We are deeply saddened and offer our deepest condolences to the family members of the departed,” said SII Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla on Twitter.

The Maharashtra state government said the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault during construction work, the report says. While five people died, four others were evacuated. 

“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,” Poonawalla said. 

SII has licensed the shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and was planning to start stockpiling up to 50 million doses a month of a vaccine candidate developed by Novavax from April. The facility will make COVID-19 vaccines for many low- and middle-income countries. At other facilities on the complex, SII is purportedly producing approximately 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine a month, with plans to increase that to as much as 100 million doses.

According to the report, Poonawalla said the fire would mean delays in launching new products and revenue losses of more than $137 million. He also said that equipment worth millions of dollars was damaged. 

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