Updated: January 23, 2021 7:25:13 am
“The fire incident will not affect Covishield supplies, but it has damaged the rotavirus and BCG vaccine manufacturing and storage facilities. It is a big financial loss for us, more than Rs 1,000 crore,” Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said at a press conference on Friday.
“By God’s grace, and prayers by all of us, the fire incident took place in another building and Covishield production and stock was not affected at all,” he said.
Five workers engaged in electrical and air-conditioning jobs were killed in the fire that engulfed the three upper floors of a newly-constructed six-storey building on the Serum campus in Pune’s Manjhari area on Thursday.
“We were hoping that there was no loss of life. When we got an initial report that there has been no loss of life, we were relieved and hence I sent out a tweet,” Poonawalla said.
“But later, after clearing of smoke, the dead bodies were discovered. We did not have a complete list of the third-party workers and did not know how many were working at the site. Once I got to know about the tragic deaths of the workers, then I sent out another message to condole the deaths. My father (Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman of the Poonawalla Group of which Serum Institute is part) also announced financial aid for their families,” he said.
Poonawalla said the fire had impacted plans to augment future capacities of BCG and rotavirus vaccines. “It is a brand new facility and installation of equipment was happening there and perhaps that (ongoing works) is what caused this incident. What we have lost is the future production,” he said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited the Serum Institute campus on Friday and reviewed the damage caused by the fire. The only relief was that manufacturing or storage of Covishield was unaffected, he said.
“Covid-19 is still wreaking havoc around the globe. Serum is a ray of hope. When news of the fire came, everyone was horrified. Five persons died but thankfully the manufacturing and storage of the Covid vaccine was not affected. People are worried about the Covid vaccine. I want to assure everyone that Covid vaccine manufacturing hasn’t been affected,” the Chief Minister said.
Thackeray said the cause of the fire was being ascertained. “A detailed inquiry is taking place, and it would be improper to jump to conclusions. Once the inquiry is over, we will know if it was an accident, or whether there was foul play,” he said.
State Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray, Labour and Excise Minister Dilip Walse Patil, Pune MP Girish Bapat, Pune Collector Rajesh Deshmukh, and Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta accompanied the Chief Minister.