Fire hits building at world’s largest vaccine maker in India

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A fire has broken out at a building under construction at Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, possibly affecting its future expansion of COVID-19 vaccine production

PUNE, India — A fire broke out Thursday at a building under construction at Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, possibly affecting its future expansion of COVID-19 vaccine production.

Firefighters were extinguishing the flames, the fire office in Pune city in southern Maharashtra state said. The cause of the fire and extent of damage were not immediately clear.

“We have rescued three people and there are no casualties,” said fire official Prashant Ranpise, who was supervising rescue operations.

“So far the most important thing is that there have been no lives lost or major injuries due to the fire, despite a few floors being destroyed,” company CEO Adar Poonawalla said.

Images showed huge plumes of smoke billowing from the building as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze. Dozens of company workers in lab suits left the compound.

Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest maker of vaccines and has been contracted to manufacture a billion doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine.

Poonawalla said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that it hopes to increase production capacity from 1.5 billion doses to 2.5 billion doses per year by the end of 2021. The new facility is key to the expansion.