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Fire at World's Biggest Vaccine Maker in India

Fire at World's Biggest Vaccine Maker in India

Thursday, 21 January, 2021 - 10:15
A research scientist works inside a laboratory of India's Serum Institute, the world's largest maker of vaccines in Pune. Reuters file photo

A fire broke out Thursday at India's Serum Institute, the world's largest maker of vaccines, local TV footage showed, but media reports said production of the coronavirus vaccine was not affected.


Serum Institute is producing millions of doses of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.


Television channels showed a huge cloud of grey smoke above the site in Pune in western India. The reports said that the blaze was at a construction site at the large facility.


India exported its first batch of locally produced coronavirus shots Wednesday, officials said, as the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer scrambled to meet requests from other countries desperate to protect their populations.


The Maldives and Bhutan will be the first recipients of India's coronavirus vaccine, while Brazil and South Africa are also among those on the waiting list.


Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said on Twitter that the "Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the COVID challenge".


The policy is seen in part as a push by India to boost its soft power and take on rival China, which is also supplying vaccines to other countries.


In January, Indian regulators approved two vaccines -- one Covishield and the other Covaxin, made by local firm Bharat Biotech.


The Indian government said the Maldives will receive a free supply of 100,000 doses of Covishield on Wednesday, while Bhutan will receive 150,000 as a "gift".


Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will follow shortly, New Dehli said.


India plans to offer 20 million doses to its South Asian neighbors, Bloomberg News reported last week, with others in Latin America, Africa and Central Asia next in line.


The Serum Institute also plans to supply 200 million doses to Covax, a World Health Organization-backed effort to procure and distribute inoculations to poor countries.


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