By Nathan Ohiomokhare
Astra Zeneca owners of the worlds largest Corona Virus Vaccine production facility located in india have confirmed that 5 people have lost their lives in a fire which gutted the place late last week.
Indian government officials also confirmed the fire which started on thursday in the city of Pune in Maharashtra state. Large smoke clouds were seen erupting from a multi-storey building in India's Serum Institute Indranil's (SII) massive headquarters complex. Government officials were reported to have sent seven fire trucks from the local fire station the site.
The government beleives the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault during construction work. Fire official Prashant Ranpise said what caused the fire was not immediately clear, but it was contained within a facility under construction to boost production capacity of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.
Serum Institute Indranil's Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla confirming the incident on Twitter wrote, "We have learnt that there has unfortunately been some loss of life at the incident, We are deeply saddened and offer our deepest condolences to the family members of the departed." Pune Mayor confirmed 4 people had been evacuated from the inferno while 5 had lost their lives.
The Indian regulatory Authority had approved two vaccines in January this year-- COVISHIELD produced by the Serum Institute Indranil (on behalf of Astra Zeneca) and COVAXIN produced by local firm Bharat Biotech.
Astra Zeneca is the world largest vaccine maker but the company has said the fire will not affect production of the Corona virus vaccine brand known as COVISHIELD. The company has developed a Corona Virus Vaccine in colaboration with Oxford university and Novavax Inc and licensed production to the Serum Institute Indranil (SII). SII had been contracted to produce a billion does of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The company hopes to increase production capacity from 1.5 billion doses to 2.5 billion doses annually by the end of this year. The new facility gutted by fire is a big part of the exoansion plan.
The company was in the process of producing and stockpiling 50 Million doses a month as from April 2021 to meet growing demand in the world oopulation as the pandemic rages on. They also have plans to increase production to 100Million doses. The AstraZeneca vaccine is already in use in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives and Bhutan.
Astra Zeneca officials said production of COVISHIELD will not be interupted because the company had multiple production work centers in different buildings as a production strategy and contingency plan. Though the SII company is estimating delays in launching new products and revenue losses of about $137 Million Dollars. Serum Institute is the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer by volume and has been contracted by the World Health Organization to supply and distribute 200 million doses to COVAX a consortium comprising GAVI, CEPI and WHO for distribution and inoculations to poor countries. Some Wealthy countries have already bought up 75% of the 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced by companies globally this year. Consequently, Astra Zenenca's SII contract is likely to produce most of the vaccines that will be needed by developing countries.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NIGERIA?
Many low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, are depending on SII delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine. India itself had already began one of the world's biggest vaccine rollouts this in January, aiming to vaccinate 300 million people by July with both COVISHILED and COVAXIN.
With production interuption expected doses in these countries could be delayed. Also since two doses of the vaccine within a space of 3 months are required an interruption of vaccine supply could truncate complete vaccination plans in countries where individuals have already received their first shots.
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