2443: Immune Response

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Immune Response
I don't care whether you win or lose, as long as you have-- ...okay, sorry, I'm being reminded I very much care whether you win or lose. I need you to win, that's very important.
Title text: I don't care whether you win or lose, as long as you have-- ...okay, sorry, I'm being reminded I very much care whether you win or lose. I need you to win, that's very important.

Explanation[edit]

This is another comic in a series related to the 2020 pandemic of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

As with a number of previous strips, Randall has a tendency to anthropomorphize both pathogens and the immune system, envisioning the process of infection and immune response as an epic battle. In this case, he treats his immune system as he would a child trying to accomplish something difficult, and worries about its emotional reaction.

The COVID-19 vaccines (like all viral inoculations) work by introducing viral proteins into the body, causing the immune system to react as if the actual virus were present, creating the antibodies to fight it. As a result, if the actual virus is introduced, the immune system will have the capacity to quickly eliminate it.

In this comic, Cueball has just received the COVID-19 vaccine and anthropomorphizes this process. He worries that his immune system is "freaking out", as the vaccine causes the body to 'think' it's under attack and respond as it would to a deadly threat. Cueball accordingly tries to reassure his immune system that the threat isn't real. However, Megan reminds him that the "panic" is the entire point, as that's what causes the body to build defenses, which will allow it to handle the real virus. Cueball then switches tactics, melodramatically announcing that the virus is about to kill him, and encouraging his "heroic immune cells" to save the day. The joke is that the basic elements of their response is accurate: the vaccine is essentially a ruse intended to "trick" the immune system into developing antibodies. However, the immune system obviously lacks a separate consciousness, and can neither hear nor understand their comments,[citation needed] making both reassurance and encouragement entirely moot.

In the title text, Cueball continues to treat his immune system like a conscious entity. Specifically, all of his communications sound like a parent, or other adult, trying to encourage a child who was trying to win a game: giving it a pep talk about how he doesn't care if it wins or loses as long as it has fun. This is a common refrain when parents or other adults try to reassure children in contexts where victory isn't especially important, and where enjoyment is the real goal. Cueball then remembers that this particular event is much more consequential. If his immune system were to 'lose' to the vaccine, that would presumably mean it was incapable of responding properly to the viral threat, meaning he'd be in serious risk of death if he contracted the actual virus. As a result, he corrects himself and states that winning, in this case, is "very important".

Transcript[edit]

[Megan is walking toward Cueball, who is holding his arm.]
Megan: How you feeling?
Cueball: Not bad. Tired. A little sore.
[Zoom in on Cueball. He looks down at his arms, which are held out.]
Cueball: I feel bad for my immune system. It doesn't know this isn't a real virus. It must be freaking out.
Cueball: Hey buddy, don't worry! We're going to be fine. This is just practice!
[Zoom out. Megan gestures at Cueball, as he holds his arm.]
Megan: No, don't tell it that. You want it to panic and build defenses that will be able to handle the real thing.
Cueball: I guess.
Cueball: Okay, let me try that again.
Cueball: *ahem*
[Cueball dramatically clutches at his chest.]
Cueball: Woe! My arm is stricken by a dreadful plague!
Cueball: I feel death draw near! My only hope is those heroic immune cells!
Megan: Perfect.
Cueball: Psst - you're doing great! I'm so proud of you.


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Discussion

Well, we do need to take care of our immune systems for them to take care of us. Proper nutrition and getting plenty of reset are important for your immune function. It has also been shown that high levels of stress hormones over a long time can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system to protect you, so having a positive attitude can improve your ability to ward off infections. Nutster (talk) 01:10, 30 March 2021 (UTC)

You don't want the human to stress out excessively, but that's because it takes away resources from the immune system. You do want the immune system itself to work hard. And in the case of a vaccination, it should believe that it's the real thing. See Viral Vector Immunity Barmar (talk) 05:17, 30 March 2021 (UTC)
Yeah, you want the immune system to be in stress, not you. -- Hkmaly (talk) 00:05, 31 March 2021 (UTC)

I would strongly prefer to wait 5-to-10 (to 30) years for long term studies before trying any new types of vaccine or medicine, but apparently my friends & family still want to see me in person before then. Oh well; at least I can keep wearing the mask at the grocery? ProphetZarquon (talk) 05:31, 30 March 2021 (UTC)

I dont blame you for waiting most vaccines undergo years of testing before they can be used. the covid vaccines skipped all the testing because they want it out there as fast as possible. --162.158.63.164 18:00, 30 March 2021 (UTC)
(Hope you don't mind, I corrected your 'indenting'.) Not really true. They did indeed test them. They may have accelerated 'normal' testing cycles and given provisional Emergency Use status, while further trial results were pending, but that was based on favourable (and, vitally, non-adverse) early but still thorough Phase III results. As well as stupid political stuff and other malicious misinformation, which is probably putting far more lives at risk, there is also continued monitoring and post-distribution testing going on of as many of the dozen-ish rolled-out versions. 141.101.99.207 19:25, 30 March 2021 (UTC)
They definitely accelerated normal testing, also did it in parallel instead of sequentially, but unless you are 70 year old you likely don't get to the vaccine before it will be tested as well as other vaccines. And what's more important, not seeing your family in person is not reliable way to avoid the infection: sure, it helps, but it's definitely safer to get vaccinated than to try social isolation for next 30 years. Unless you actually take it so seriously you keep all food in quarantine for four days after delivery, which must be implemented contactlessly, with spraying while front yard with disinfection when the delivery person leaves so it's safe to open the door. -- Hkmaly (talk) 00:05, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
Indeed, if it weren't for the massively parallel testing, & (depending which vaccine you end up getting) the not-unprecedented methodology of its function, I would have many more concerns about taking any treatment this new. (Especially since our government went out of its way to make sure the situation got truly terrifying, before pushing a treatment that will make sure that anyone who hadn't been exposed will be; I'm not going to let my own paranoia get the best of me, but what used to be considered "paranoid" too often turns out to mean "correct", so if it were just our government pushing for it I'd be like "Nah, I'm good" & go hide for another year.) At least with parallel testing we get a very large sample set. Of course that doesn't find many of the same things long-term testing can, but I'm impressed how diligent some in our medical-science community have been, in disseminating detailed, cogent information & advisories. A great example of what leadership could look like.
Oh, & I wouldn't say getting vaccinated is necessarily safer than isolating: the level of exposure counts for a lot, & having a more immediately targeted immune response is no guarantee, with regard to highly resilient infections. As someone who already didn't go to events unless paid to, & never had the income to be reliant on restaurant food, the US "isolation" practices are almost a piece of cake (as contrasted with actual quarantine measures or any actual lockdown). Being more consistent about cleaning stuff off before I handle it, took all of a few weeks to habituate to. A few decades or more of getting my hands dirty has trained in a lot of hazmat practices anyway... Just not going to a party where I sit on shared surfaces in a crowded space can do more to reduce my risk of infection than a vaccination from a few months back during the spring. Vaccination schmaxination, there's gonna be another pandemic just around the corner at this rate: Even after we all got our second shots, I was really hoping we'd learn to keep up the extra hygiene & distancing as much as possible!
ProphetZarquon (talk) 03:44, 1 April 2021 (UTC)


If Cells At Work taught me anything, it's that most immune cells are the kind of person who would treat simple training with deadly severity. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 12:52, 31 March 2021 (UTC)

Edit: Deleted comment. Sorry for the accidental spam. {)|(}Quill{)|(} 18:16, 6 April 2021 (UTC)