A major fire broke out at the building of the Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune on Thursday afternoon. It should be mentioned here that the Serum Institute of India is the manufacturer of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine – Covishield. Covishield, produced by the SII has been given emergency use authorisation in India recently and is being used for inoculation in the country’s mega vaccination drive According to reports, at least 10 fire tenders were engaged to bring the flames at the Serum Institute of India’s Manjari premises under control. A team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has also been sent to the site.
Various reports have suggested that there will be no impact on the Covishield vaccine production process as the fire broke out at a facility away from the place where the anti-coronavirus vaccines are made.
However, mystery shrouds as Covishield is being used for inoculation in the country’s mega vaccination drive and as well the product has also been sent to neighbouring countries, such as Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives for human uses. In this backdrop, a foul play also can’t not be ruled out.
There was no immediate word on any casualties, nor on the cause of the fire. Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla said that the company is first trying to rescue employees trapped inside and now it’s the only priority. “We will assess the situation later on the damage on all other counts,” he said. The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, is spread over 100 acres in Pune. The chief minister office (CMO) said that it is in touch with the Pune Municipal Commissioner and is taking complete on-ground updates. The chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has directed the state machinery to coordinate and ensure that the situation is under control.
In November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the Serum Institute to review the development of coronavirus vaccine ahead of the rollout. India launched the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine rollout last week after two vaccines – Covishield and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – were cleared by the drug controller DCGI. The site where the fire broke out is an under-construction building at SII. The vaccine and vaccine manufacturing plant are safe.