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The Deputy Assistant has died for an analogy. Some will recall four years ago his boss, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, boldly revived the discredited effort to eradicate polio from the provinces west and south of the capital—bold because several children had been paralyzed by the vaccine given to protect them. Those precious souls with their bent frames were the statistical necessity of a cure for the world, but they were pathetic, and no matter what the Deputy Assistant said, their parents were impossible to answer. For several seasons after that, whole provinces of five-year-olds had closed their mouths against the disreputable sugar cube. An ambivalent man might have been daunted; instead, the Minister wept for an audience at the new sanitation plant, but warned that an excess of love for the stricken few unfortunates would cripple thousands of children. His Deputy was moved as well but understood the numbers better. Only one child would be stricken for every three million successfully dosed. “It is as if,” he told the Minister, and the comment has cost him his life, “to banish the scourge to oblivion, you sacrificed your three sons.” The details of how he fulfilled his accidental prophecy are appalling, and there is evidence he tried to sabotage it, but the clarity of the plan is as strict as a gem. In the capital today, the Deputy Assistant has eaten a phosphine tablet and died. The job is two-thirds done now, new cases are rare, and the Minister’s third son travels with him to the regions of greatest concern, where skepticism of the vaccine might nullify the nation’s triumph over disease. The boy stands straight and tall alongside his brothers in their chairs, and the locals decide for themselves the extent of the Minister’s nerve.
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