On Thursday, a fire broke out at India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine producer, but a company source said the development of coronavirus preventive drugs was not affected.
For India and many other nations, the Serum Institute is manufacturing millions of doses of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine, produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
In western India, local TV channels showed dense clouds of grey smoke billowing from a sprawling site in Pune.
“The production of the Covid-19 vaccine is not going to be affected,” a source at the Serum Institute told AFP, adding that the blaze was at a new plant under construction.
A local fire station official told AFP that six or seven fire engines, scattered over 100 acres, had reached the scene.
Three individuals, with another unaccounted for, were confirmed to have been rescued from the blaze.
The fire brigade told NDTV, “Thick smoke hampers the work of bringing the fire under control.”
A few minutes’ drive from the plant where the coronavirus vaccines are manufactured is the complex where the fire broke out, reports said.
In order to increase its production capacity, eight or nine buildings are under construction at the complex, NDTV said.
Huge vaccine rollout
Established in 1966 by Cyrus Poonawalla, the Serum Institute is the largest producer of vaccines in the world by number, delivering 1.5 billion doses a year well before the coronavirus pandemic.
It provides vaccines that are exported to more than 170 countries against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella.
In recent years, the organisation has invested nearly a billion dollars developing and upgrading the giant Pune campus.
Two vaccines, Covishield, developed by the Serum Institute, and Covaxin, produced by the local company Bharat Biotech, were authorised by Indian regulators in January.
On Saturday, India began one of the world’s largest vaccine rollouts, planning to vaccinate 300 million individuals with both Covishield and Covaxin by July.
Many other nations rely on the Serum Institute to provide the vaccine to them.
On Wednesday, India exported its first batch to Bhutan and the Maldives, followed by 2 million doses to Bangladesh and one million doses to Nepal.
The nation is preparing to give its South Asian neighbours 20 m doses, with Latin America, Africa and Central Asia next in line.
The Serum Institute now aims to supply Covax with 200m doses, an initiative sponsored by the World Health Organization to obtain and administer inoculations to developing countries.