2491: Immune Factory

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Immune Factory
In the final vote, the doubters were won over by the strength of the name IMMUNION.
Title text: In the final vote, the doubters were won over by the strength of the name IMMUNION.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by an IMMUNION. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Hairy has received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and is now feeling unwell. He and Cueball make comments that metaphorically compare Hairy's body to a workplace.

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.


Ambox notice.png 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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I don't feel qualified to start this description, but this page has relevant info to explain the pun in the last panel: Strikebreaker - Wikipedia - Vaedez (talk) 03:36, 20 July 2021 (UTC)

I've yet to visit your link, but I suspect I would have explained that self-same thing. Plus the "IMMUNION" thing being a parody of something I know happened in the UK (don't know about the US, but why not?) where the Bottle Washers And Associated Kitchen Trades Union stops being known by its proud old acronym of BWAAKTU and 'rebrands' as something that sounds like a team name from The Apprentice, becoming "Sinceriton" or "Dynamotion" or something that looks like it should be an aptonym with a valid backronym like "SINKU". 04:58, 20 July 2021 (UTC)

When I read the comic, I inferred that this was his second dose - the first dose made his body build up defenses, in contrast with now, when it's ramping up production and making him feel really bad. 05:40, 20 July 2021 (UTC)

I agree, I think the comic displays Hairy suffering the reactions to his second shot rather than the first. Bischoff (talk) 07:00, 20 July 2021 (UTC)
Personally, my first dose (of AZ/Oxford, for reference) crept up on me and, after several hours, gave me a totally unanticipated (the way one thinks one is immortal, clearly going to be taking such stuff in one's stride, right?) whole-body set of muscular aches and pains and day or two of general dreadfulness, the depths of which seem to be reflected in Hairy's depiction almost to a tee.
The second dose (when I was more prepared for the reaction/repurcussions, and now knew where I'd find an almost-expired pack of flu-tablets that I wish I remembered I'd had the first time when I didn't even want to crawl out of bed much, but had never even opened) was therefore pessimistically anticipated to be just as bad but actually only half my body seemed to ache for the duration (still worse than any winter cold/flu I could quantify from recent memory) and I bounced back much quicker. (This time having deliberately resisted taking the newly rediscovered standard medicine-aisle anti-inflammatories, painkillers and/or whatever that I only ever bought in 'just in case' long before Covid or its vaccines were ever an immediate issue.)
Anecdotal, I know. And I post my inability to/restraint from self-medication just to frame the relative degree of effects felt (I would have popped the pills the first time round, if I knew I could have, and that's something I just don't like doing on principle, as I (over?)trust my body to get through most circumstances, short of those important enough to require such a vaccination). I'm not a masochist, just a bit more inclined to wait and see.
Plus given it's assumed to be in the US it's probably going to be Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna (not the same mechanism as AZ's primer). Or maybe Janssen (which is more so). That greatly adds uncertainty to the usual mix of everyone having their own individual response to nominally identical treatment. But this is my own personal datum point, lacking any others. 10:37, 20 July 2021 (UTC)

When Cueball replies "common side effect" to Hairy remarking that his immune cells have "unionized", what side effect is that referring to exactly? The current text of this explanation page says "It is not clear whether [Hairy's statement of immune-cell unionization] corresponds to any actual part of the immune response", but Cueball's reply seems to imply that there is a correspondence. - Vaedez (talk) 09:34, 20 July 2021 (UTC)

I believe the "unionisation" and refering to it as a common side effect refers to fever. Fever being a reaction of the immune system to a threat, as well as a common side effect of many vaccines. 23:02, 20 July 2021 (UTC)

I remember there's actually a few parodies of the immune factory, other then this. Should they be mentioned/a new category created? 2425 is one Eelitee (talk) 23:15, 23 July 2021 (UTC)