2491: Immune Factory
Title text: In the final vote, the doubters were won over by the strength of the name IMMUNION.
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Vaccines in general work by giving the body's immune system a chance to respond to a pathogen without actually being infected. The immune system responds by producing antibodies, proteins customised to attach to the pathogen, either disabling it directly or marking it for attack by immune cells. After the vaccine (or after an actual illness), the immune system remembers how to make the antibodies and can more quickly respond to future infections. This is why Hairy describes his body as an "antibody factory".
However, many common symptoms of illness (such as fever, soreness, diarrhea and nausea) are actually caused by the body's immune response rather than the infection itself. As a result, vaccines can result in similar symptoms to an illness, albeit milder and of shorter duration.
Hairy extends the "body as factory" metaphor by complaining that, since he feels unwell, the factory must be violating OSHA regulations—that is, rules that protect workers from unsafe work conditions. Hairy says his lymphatic system (a major component of the immune system) is protesting the "brutal" work of responding to the vaccine, as human workers might protest a dangerous workplace.
In real workplaces, one possible response to worker dissatisfaction is for them to unionize, forming an organization that can use their solidarity to bargain for improvements to working conditions. Hairy says that this is what his immune cells have done. It is not clear whether this corresponds to any actual part of the immune response, or whether it is simply a humorous expansion on the "factory" metaphor.
Cueball uses the "union" statement to set up a pun on two meanings of the word "scab". If unions make demands that an employer refuses, their workers may strike, or refuse to work. Employers may keep the workplace running by hiring strikebreakers, non-union workers (or union workers who break ranks with their colleagues). Union members may refer to strikebreakers by the pejorative term "scabs".
Another meaning of "scab" is the hard coating the body produces to cover a wound while it heals. Smallpox is a dangerous illness that causes ulcers on the skin, leading to many small scabs forming as the ulcers heal. Prior to modern vaccination techniques, people were sometimes deliberately infected with smallpox—typically from a person with a mild case—while they were healthy. This process, now called variolation (after Variola, the virus that causes smallpox), could be done in various ways, but one was to insufflate (blow up their nose) the powdered scabs of a person who had been sick.
The pun therefore is that members of the immune system union would not like either kind of scab.
|This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.|
- [Cueball walks in from the left, into a room where Hairy is sitting in a chair facing away, sick. Hairy is wrapped in a blanket and holding a steaming mug.]
- Cueball: I guess the first shot made your body build defenses, and now it's ramping up production.
- Hairy: So I've become an antibody factory.
- [In the next panel, Cueball is now facing Hairy on the right.]
- Hairy: I don't feel great. I think my factory has some OSHA violations.
- Hairy: My lymphatic system is protesting brutal working conditions.
- [In a frame-less panel, Cueball continues to stand in front of Hairy; Hairy's mug is steaming less.]
- Hairy: Update: my immune cells have unionized.
- Cueball: Common side effect. Helps maintain a healthy balance.
- [In a panel with a frame, Hairy's mug is no longer steaming; Cueball has his hand raised and Hairy is pointing in Cueball's direction]
- Cueball: Immune system unions are actually why we stopped doing variolation.
- Hairy: Oh? Why?
- Cueball: They don't like scabs.
- Hairy: Ugh. Leave.
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