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Waldemar Haffkine: Pioneer of plague vaccine remembered as world looks for COVID-19 cure


Mumbai, Apr 01: While the world is facing the menace of coronavirus which has killed over 35,000 people and affected more than 7.5 lakh across the globe, doctors are now remembering noted bacteriologist Waldemar Haffkine's research and his vaccine against bubonic plague found here in 1893.

They also want that public funds be spent more on medical research and education, instead of erecting statues and monuments.

Waldemar Haffkine: Pioneer of plague vaccine remembered as world looks for COVID-19 cure

Haffkine, who was a Russian, spent 22 years of his life in India where he conducted research for the bubonic plague vaccine in Room 000 of the state-run Grant Medical College and Sir J J Hospital building here.

The vaccine saved millions of lives and benefitted the entire mankind. He also has to his credit a vaccine against cholera. Haffkine's research is being remembered now when the world is facing its biggest challenge of the century in the form of the deadly novel coronavirus.

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So far, there is no vaccine against the deadly viral infection.

J J Hospital's resident medical officer Dr Rewat Kaninde said while looking at the medical facility's building and remembering its rich history including Haffkine's research, he feels sad there is no vaccine against coronavirus till now.

"A man from Russia came to India 125 years ago and did historical work with his scientific approach," he noted.

Instead of spending thousand of crores on statues and monuments, a policy should be made to spend funds on medical research and education, he added.

The J J Hospital room where Haffkine invented the vaccine against plague now serves as lecture hall of pharmacology for the second year MBBS students. "This lecture hall is an inspiration for me and the students of medical science," says Kaninde, who is an alumnus of the Grant Medical College.

"I feel proud to have studied in the room where Haffkine developed the plague vaccine," he says, adding that not only Indians, but the world also owes Haffkine a lot.

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The government put a plaque on the wall of the Grant Medical College and J J Hospital building in the honour of Haffkine and it was unveiled by the then President V V Giri on August 27, 1971.

The Grant Medical College is going to observe its 175th foundation day in May this year. The college and the hospital had various celebration plans and also intended to invite President Ram Nath Kovind, but its staff members are now engaged in the fight against coornavirus.

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