Police spokesperson Joseph Swartbooi confirmed the incident, adding that the fire had caused extensive damage to the inside roof of the Biovac building. Picture Jack Lestrade/Daily Voice
Police spokesperson Joseph Swartbooi confirmed the incident, adding that the fire had caused extensive damage to the inside roof of the Biovac building. Picture Jack Lestrade/Daily Voice

Police probe fire at Biovac building, facility says operations are unaffected

By Nomalanga Tshuma Time of article published Jul 19, 2021

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Cape Town - Pinelands police are investigating a fire that caused some damage to the inside roof of the Biovac building in Alexandra Road in Pinelands in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The incident, which caused a flurry of speculation on social media yesterday, has been addressed by the City of Cape Town’s mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, who released a statement saying that preliminary investigations into the cause of the shocking incident suggested the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) were at fault.

Smith said that fire services from Roeland Street, Brooklyn, Epping and Bellville had attended to the scene and swiftly extinguished the flames just before 8am yesterday.

“There is no evidence that this was an attempted attack on Covid vaccine stores as being speculated, especially since preliminary investigations suggest that the fire’s origin was related to an HVAC fault. However, due to the prompt response of our fire services, only a separate building suffered damage while the laboratory itself was completely protected.

“The scene has been handed over to the police for further investigation, as per the standard procedure. I must say that it is imperative that we reject the notion of those spreading fake news and false claims through social media as it spreads unnecessary fear,” said Smith.

Police spokesperson Joseph Swartbooi confirmed the incident, adding that the fire had caused extensive damage to the inside roof of the Biovac building.

Biovac management has informed the Department of Science and Innovation about the incident, stating that it occurred in one of the facility's research and development buildings.

The Department of Science and Innovation has meanwhile welcomed the news that manufacturing and distribution remains uninterrupted following an incident.

“There will be no impact on normal operations or the manufacture and delivery of vaccines. No one was injured as a result of the fire, and none of the products were affected,” said Veronica Mohapelo, department spokesperson.

“The cause of the fire has not yet been established. An investigation will be conducted as standard procedure, but there is currently no evidence of foul play.”

Biovac was established to revive human vaccine production in Southern Africa. Alongside the development of modern facilities, the company has secured high profile technology transfers from international pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Sanofi Pasteur.

The company also sources and supplies a comprehensive range of vaccines required by the Department of Health, supplying over 15 million doses of vaccines (excluding Covid-19 vaccines) per year across South Africa and into neighbouring countries.

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Cape Argus

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