Smoke billows out as fire broke out at the under-construction building at Serum Institute of India in Pune on Thursday. | ANI
Fire breaks out at Serum Institute of India’s Manjari facility in Pune | ANI
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New Delhi: Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) Friday said the production of BCG and rotavirus vaccine will get affected due to the outbreak of fire at its plant a day before.  

The world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines is currently in global spotlight for manufacturing Covishield, which has been developed by University of Oxford and pharma giant AstraZeneca. It is one of the two vaccines approved in India for the immunisation drive. 

The company Thursday assured that “there would be no loss of Covishield production due to multiple production buildings” kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies.

In an official statement Friday, the SII said it has “suffered financial losses due to the fire that broke in an under-installation building of SII plant at Manjari, Pune, and this will impact production of BCG and rota vaccines in the future”.

Both vaccines are part of India’s national immunisation programme. BCG, which is a vaccine for preventing tuberculosis, is administered to infants within a few days of being born, while rotavirus vaccine is given in a three-dose schedule to children from six to 14 weeks of age to prevent serious diarrhoea.

“The production won’t be impacted due to the financial losses incurred, but due to the loss of high-end equipment and world-class machinery that was under the installation for production of BCG and rotavirus vaccines. Now, we need to start the same process from scratch after the renovation of the affected site,” an SII official told ThePrint.

“The fire had broken out in the upper floors of the building where the installation process was in progress. The lower floors are already occupied by laboratories for rotavirus and BCG,” the official added.

The fire, which claimed the lives of five workers, had broken out at the company’s new biotechnology park in an under-construction building at Manjari, Pune. 


Also read: Countries with BCG vaccine policy have slow Covid infection and death rates, US study finds


‘All Covid-19 vaccines safe’ 

In a tweet Thursday, Serum Institute’s CEO Adar Poonawalla had said the incident will not hit the production of Covishield.

“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 at Serum Institute,” he tweeted.

The company’s chairman and managing director, Cyrus S. Poonawalla, issued a statement Thursday announcing a compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the family of the deceased. 

“We are deeply saddened and offer our condolences to the families of the departed. In this regard, we will be offering a compensation of INR 25 lakhs to each of the families, in addition to the mandated amount as per the norms.”

Affected plant was inaugurated in 2019

The Manjri plant was inaugurated by Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in 2019. The company had at that time announced that it had invested Rs 3,200 crore and planned to invest Rs 800 crore, going forward.

The unit, when launched, was promoted to be built in compliance with the US and European vaccine manufacturing regulations.

The objective was to maximise the production of vaccines such as HPV, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis in addition to Thermostable Rotasiil along with monoclonal antibodies like Trastuzumab (Herceptin).


Also read: Now, Russian scientists find link between BCG vaccine & Covid-19 immunity


 

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