A day after a fire at the Serum Institute of India compound in Pune killed five workers, Adar Poonawalla, the CEO, said a compensation of ₹25 lakh will be given to the families of the victims.
The SII is the manufacturer of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, Covishield. “We’re deeply saddened and offer our condolences to families of the departed,” said Poonawalla. He said the financial compensation was in addition to other benefits for each family of the victims as mandated.
He told The Indian Express that “BCG, Rotavirus vaccine, too many products have been damaged in the fire.”
A National Disaster Response Force team was rushed to control the fire that broke out around 2.45 pm. Sources said Prime Minister Modi had visited the building at the Manjri plant on November 28. The PM had spoken with a manufacturing team about Covishield vaccine distribution and other logistical issues.
The victims were labourers working on the fifth floor of the building, Maharashtra’s health minister Rajesh Tope told the media. They were rescued and taken to government Sassoon Hospital, but died in the hospital, Tope said.
Poonawalla said a few floors of the building have been destroyed in the fire. He took to Twitter to reassure all that the accident would not affect the production of Covishield as multiple buildings had been kept reserved to deal with such contingencies at SII.
Meanwhile, Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman and managing director, SII, who was at the facility told The Express that the affected part of the compound was a new building on the Special Economic Zone campus at Manjri (the plant is 3 km from the institute’s main plant at Hadapsar where Covishield is being manufactured). “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,” he said.
The SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer in terms of the number of doses produced and sold globally. 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.