The massive fire at the Serum Institute of India’s (SII) campus on Pune on Thursday led to the deaths of five persons, mostly construction workers who were trapped inside an under-construction building. However, the manufacturing of the Covishield vaccine hasn’t been affected, said Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla. A day after the fire, Serum Institute has dispatched consignments of the Covishield vaccine for Myanmar, Seychelles and Mauritius.
While 1.5 million doses of Covishield have been dispatched to Myanmar, 50,000 doses were sent to Seychelles and another shipment of 1,00,000 doses were sent to Mauritius as part of India’s grant assistance.
“I would like to reassure all governments and 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 in a tweet before the five bodies were discovered.
The five dead were doing welding and air-conditioning jobs at the building, which had been completed recently. Two of them were from Uttar Pradesh, and one was from Bihar. The other two workers were local people. None of them was an employee of Serum India.
The lower floors of the building have laboratory facilities for SII’s rotavirus and BCG vaccines. The upper floors where the fire broke out were unoccupied. The production units and laboratories for the Covid-19 vaccine are located on another SII campus nearby.
Incidentally, the affected building was part of the facilities that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited last month, when he came to see Serum’s vaccine-making processes.
Fire Brigade and police officers said the fire became big by feeding on inflammable material on the upper floors. “There was a lot of air conditioning material, including insulation material and objects used for fabrication. There were objects made from PVC, acrylic, plastic, plywood, and wood,” a fire brigade official said.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray is scheduled to visit the Serum campus on Friday.