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“It’s so strange to us that vaccinations can be controversial in the US,” the doctor said to us, shaking his head ever so slightly. And when I looked around at the clinic on the outskirts of a dusty, dirt road town many bumpy miles from downtown Addis Ababa in October, seeing what he saw every day, I understood completely.

We saw benches lined with patients waiting for this test or that treatment, taking days off from working the fields that they could hardly afford.

We saw the bare, calloused feet of mothers who had trudged 3 miles or more up the road with one child on their back and one walking hand-in-hand, just to give them the check-ups and vaccines that would give them a better chance of surviving infancy than their cousins had.

We met the health care workers in the clinic outposts, who work in structures barely the size of a two-car garage, fervently passionate for reaching patients in the towns just too far to get to the main clinic.

We peered closely at the charts on the walls, each completed with pride and remarkable detail, indicating just how many people were vaccinated in a community from month to month–and, concurrently, how many fewer people died  from tuberculosis, measles, hepatitis, HIV.

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