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Fire at the world's largest vaccine producer in India - five dead

(AP) A large fire broke out on Thursday in a building of the world's largest vaccine producer in India. At least five workers died, as the fire brigade of the German press agency said.

The Serum Institute also produces the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca's corona vaccine for India and other markets under the Covishield name at affordable prices. It will therefore play an important role in fighting pandemics, especially in poorer countries. According to company boss Adar Poonawalla on Twitter, there are now no losses in Covishield production.

It is still unclear how big the damage and why the fire broke out in the city of Pune on Thursday afternoon (local time), said the fire department spokesman. Firefighters with 15 fire engines finally brought the fire under control.

According to its boss Poonawalla, the Serum Institute plans to produce a billion doses of corona vaccine this year. The burning building had been under construction. The Serum Institute is currently expanding - to produce more vaccine against corona and other diseases like polio.

India is often referred to as the “pharmacy of the world” - just like Germany was in the past, as the country's second most populous country claims that around half of all vaccines are manufactured worldwide. Many of them go to poorer countries. For these countries, the products from India will also be of great importance now, because unlike Germany and other rich countries, they could not secure many cans directly.

As part of its vaccine diplomacy, India is also distributing specially produced corona vaccines to other countries in the region free of charge. The country also needs a lot of vaccines itself and has recently started its vaccination campaign - the largest in the world, according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Around 300 million people in this huge country are to be vaccinated by the summer. That's less than a quarter of the country's 1.3 billion people.