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WHO Asks Ugandans with Ebola Contact to Trust Trial Vaccine

The World Health Organization is asking Ugandans to have faith in the trial vaccine

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WHO, Ugandans, Vaccine
An Ugandan health worker shows an informational flyer on Ebola virus and how to prevent its spread to the community of Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Kasese district, Uganda, June 15, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization is asking Ugandans to have faith in the trial vaccine being used to contain the Ebola outbreak near the border with Congo. This follows reports that 13 people who came in contact with the virus declined to be vaccinated.

Since 2018 Uganda has vaccinated nearly 5,000 people including medical officers, frontline health workers and most recently, people who came into contact with the virus in the western Kasese district

However, 13 out of the 94 confirmed contact persons in Kasese district declined to be vaccinated.  Village health coordinator Mbusa Geoffrey tells VOA the 13 believe that only prayer can protect them from the virus.

In an interview with VOA, Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization regional director for Africa, said the Ebola vaccine is 97 percent effective.

WHO, Ugandans, Vaccine
FILE – Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa attends a briefing for World Health Assembly (WHA) delegates on the Ebola outbreak response in the DRC, Geneva, May 23, 2018. VOA

“It is still an experimental vaccine because there is a protocol to follow until it’s been used to a certain extent,” she explained. “And then the data can be put together to definitively determine its effectiveness. But I do believe that we have enough experience with this vaccine now, to know that it’s an extremely effective vaccine. So, people can have faith in it.”

Early this month, Uganda confirmed its first three Ebola cases of the current outbreak.  All three patients, two of whom died, had crossed over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a raging Ebola outbreak has killed more than 1,500 people.

Ugandan Health Minister Ruth Aceng says those who do not want to be vaccinated have not been adequately sensitized.

“My appeal to the 13 who have declined vaccination is for them to come out and get vaccinated,” she stressed. “We want them alive. And we also want to ensure that other people are alive. It is for their own good.”

Also Read- Video Game Helps Fight Disease: Research

Even though there are no new confirmed cases in Uganda, the country remains at risk due to the heavy influx of refugees fleeing conflicts in the eastern part of Congo. (VOA)

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Scientists in Australia Use Artificial Intelligence to Develop New Vaccine Against the Flu

The key to the technology are adjuvants, which are substances that help existing therapies work better to prevent infection

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artificial intelligence, drugs
FILE - Ami-Louise Cochrane, center, receives a flu vaccination at Flinders Medical Center, in Adelaide, Australia. VOA

Scientists in Australia say they have used artificial intelligence to develop a powerful new vaccine against the flu. The team from Flinders University believe it is the first time a computer has used its own machine learning to design a new drug for use in people.

The computer’s name is Sam, or Search Algorithm for Ligands, and Australian researchers say its new flu drug is a “turbo-charged” version of existing treatments.  The key to the technology are adjuvants, which are substances that help existing therapies work better to prevent infection.

The artificial intelligence program was fed information on influenza vaccines that work as well as those that do not, and left to its own devices without any help from scientists at Flinders University.  They say it is a start of a “new era” in artificial intelligence research.

Artificial intelligence
The team from Flinders University believe it is the first time a computer has used its own machine learning to design a new drug for use in people. Pixabay

“We took existing drugs that we know work.  We took examples of drugs that do not work, or have failed and we essentially showed all of that to the A.I. program called Sam,” explains Dr. Nikolai Petrovsky, from Flinders University in Adelaide. “[It] came up with its own suggestion of what might be an effective adjuvant, which we then took and tested, and, sure enough, it worked.”

ALSO READ: Researchers Develop Artificial Intelligence Method that can Help Crops Cope with Climate Changes

A clinical trial will soon start on 240 volunteers in the United States.  It is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The World Health Organization has said the 2019 influenza season appeared to have started earlier than previous years in Australia, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.  The disease kills many thousands of people around the world each year. More than 115,000 influenza cases have been reported in Australia and authorities say 226 people have died so far this year. (VOA)