PUNE, India (AP) – The building under construction of Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, caught fire on Thursday, possibly affecting its future expansion of COVID-19 vaccine production.
Firefighters were extinguishing the flames in Pune city of southern Maharashtra state. The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage were not immediately clear.
“We have rescued three people and there have been no casualties,” said fire officer Prashant Ransafe, who was monitoring the rescue operations.
The company said the fire was limited to a new facility being built to increase production of COVID-19 vaccines and to better prepare for future pandemics.
It said the fire did not affect existing facilities that caused COVID-19 vaccines, or about 50 million doses of stock.
The CEO of the company, Adar Poonawala, said, “The most important thing so far is that some people have not died or suffered any major injuries due to the fire.”
The images showed heavy piles of smoke from the building as firefighters extinguished the explosion. Dozens of company employees left the compound in lab suits.
The Serum Institute of India is the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world and has been contracted to produce one billion doses of the vaccine of AstraZeneca / Oxford University.
Poonawala said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that it expects to increase production capacity by 1.5 billion doses to 2.5 billion doses per year by the end of 2021. The new facility is important for expansion.
More than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine supplements are expected to be produced this year, wealthy countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. As a result, the Serum Institute is likely to make most of the vaccines that will be used by developing countries.