Michael Gerson: Think all government is inessential? Visit the CDC

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Polio eradication is an enterprise now conducted at the frontiers of medicine and war — introducing vaccination into places that have never seen Western medicine and sometimes requiring negotiations with warlords and militias. In some places, the challenge is management; in others, security. The complexity can be frustrating. "It is like finishing a marathon," one CDC expert told me, "and being told you have an extra mile to run."

But these are struggles near the finish line of a landmark scientific achievement. And for those who doubt that any purpose of government can be essential, the daring, humane work of the CDC is a corrective.

Michael Gerson's email address is michaelgerson@washpost.com.

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