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It’s one of those great Latin phrases: in the place of a parent.
It’s a great phrase because of exactly how little it proves. When is someone who is not a parent allowed to act in the place of a parent? And when is someone who is a parent not allowed to act as a parent?
We never used to ask these questions — or, at least, we never used to ask them in the same context. When I was a child, no one “protested” polio vaccines, or at least no one that I knew of did.
In Garcia v. City of New York, the court held that schools take the place of par- ents the moment they take physical custody and control of students. And in California, teachers and administrators are permitted to exercise con- trol over children to the same degree as a parent without the threat of criminal prose- cution when doing so. That’s in loco parentis, but how does that impact vaccine mandates in public schools?
This week, in light of the announcement that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for children 5- 11, at least based on what we know now, the question of who can authorize a vaccine – – and/or who must — has moved to center stage.
In an ideal world, you’d like to believe that there is AN answer. SCIENCE.
But even in the best of worlds, who knows what sci- ence will tell us 50 years from now.
My sister was treated with an anti-cancer drug, Adriamycin — 30 years ago. No one knew then that — 30 years down the road — the drug would cause congestive heart failure. And even if we had known? At 33, she would have happily taken the deal.
Science, facts, truth — all of it is simply relative, contextu- al, based on what we think we know now, some of which will inevitably turn out to be wrong.
The point is that in a world in which we trust each other, in a world in which we trust ourselves, things are difficult enough.
But in a world in which we have stopped trusting each other, in which we have stopped trusting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in which the pres- ident can’t pick the head of the Food and Drug Administration, in which doc- tors don’t trust each other across state lines, in which science has been politicized and politics have turned utterly partisan, how do we trust the other parents, the other teachers, the other caregivers? Never have our collective lives depended so entirely on each other — and never have we had more rea- son to fear from the foolish decisions of others.
We need to trust each other. But really, isn’t it more a mat- ter of faith than facts?