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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Serum fire: Poonawalla says Rotavirus, BCG vaccine damaged; Rs 25 lakh for victims’ kin

Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla, who is not in the country at present, expressed shock over the fire mishap at the institute’s building on Thursday that claimed five lives.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: January 22, 2021 6:31:57 pm
Serum Institute of India, Hadapsar police, Serum Institute fire, SII fire, Pune vaccine company fire, Pune Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta, Serum Institute fire cause, Forensics Sciences Laboratory Pune, Pune news, indian expressPune police has launched an investigation to ascertain the cause of the fire, whether all precautionary and safety measures were in place, and whether there was any negligence on anyone's part. (Express Photo)

Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla, who is not in the country at present, expressed shock over the fire mishap at the institute’s building on Thursday that claimed five lives. “Not in a mood to speak. BCG, Rotavirus vaccine, too many products have been damaged in the fire,” Poonawalla told The Indian Express.

The mishap took place at one of the under construction buildings at the Special Economic Zone at SII’s Manjri plant on Thursday afternoon. Poonawalla, who said a few floors of the building have destroyed in the fire, took to Twitter to reassure all governments and common people that the mishap would not affect the production of Covishield, a vaccine for Covid-19, as multiple buildings had been kept reserved to deal with such contingencies at SII.

“This was a new building at the Special Economic Zone campus at Manjri. It was on the verge of completion and the facility was built to manufacture extra quantities of BCG and Rotavirus vaccines. We do not know the cause of the fire and will assess the extent of the damage soon,” Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman and managing director, SII, who was at the facility told The Indian Express.

“You cannot imagine the shock and human tragedy that have happened here apart from the huge losses. We are all shaken,” Dr Rajeev Dhere, executive director at SII, who was with Dr Poonawalla, said.

SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer in terms of number of doses produced and sold globally (more than 1.5 billion doses). The institute manufactures vaccine doses for polio, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis among others. It is estimated that about 65 per cent of the children in the world receive at least one vaccine manufactured by SII. With the licensure of additional facilities, SII has the flexibility to produce vaccines in more than one plant and facilitate the production of a large number of doses in the shortest time frame.

The Manjri plant is 3km from the institute’s main plant at Hadapsar where Covishield is being manufactured. The building where the fire broke out is close to Adar Poonawalla’s new office and boardroom. The office is inside a refurbished plane and is inside a building named Terminal 1. Poonawalla converted an Airbus A320 into an office space.

Informed sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the building at the Manjri plant on November 28. The Prime Minister interacted with the manufacturer team about the making, logistics and distribution of Covishield vaccine. The building design was similar to that of the production facility at Hadapsar and hence, the Prime Minister visited the first floor where the BCG vaccine manufacturing processes were underway.

Rs 25 lakh to victims’ families

Dr Poonawalla told The Indian Express that the company will offer a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to each of the families of the fire victims, in addition to the mandated amount as per the norm. A statement later was issued on Facebook and Twitter where the SII chairman and managing director said: “Today is an extremely sorrowful day for all of us at Serum Institute of India. Regrettably there were losses of lives in the fire that broke out in our under installation facility at the Special Economic Zone at Manjri.”

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