2491: Immune Factory
Title text: In the final vote, the doubters were won over by the strength of the name IMMUNION.
When Hairy received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, his body began building a defense in the form of antibodies. He has now received his second shot, and is feeling even more unwell than the first time, since his body has ramped up the production of antibodies, as Cueball states. Hairy and Cueball then begins to make comments that metaphorically compare Hairy's immune system to a factory, hence the title Immune Factory.
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 bleeding or seeping wound while it heals. Smallpox is a dangerous illness that causes ulcers upon the skin, leading to many small scabs forming as those 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. Some methods used pus or fluid from smallpox ulcers, but others used scabs from the ulcers, dried and powdered. This powder might be rubbed into a cut in the skin, or insufflated (blown up the person's nose).
The pun therefore is that members of the immune system union would not like either kind of scab. Hairy finds the pun appalling, and tells Cueball to leave.
The title-text parodies the trend for recent incarnations of unions to rebrand or form anew with a descriptively apt name (possibly with a forced acronym, or styled as one for branding purposes), rather than the (Extended/Very Extended/etc) Three Letter Acronyms of times past. In this case making a portmanteau of "immune union" - Immunion. The cleverness of this name apparently convinced some of Hairy's immune cells that were previously opposed to the union to change their minds.
Actual OSHA regulations that may be broken by the antibody factory, if OSHA regulations applied
- 1910.1030(d)(1) 
- General. Universal precautions shall be observed to prevent contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials. Under circumstances in which differentiation between body fluid types is difficult or impossible, all body fluids shall be considered potentially infectious materials.
- This would be broken because the immune system necessarily is in contact with blood and other bodily fluids.
- [Cueball walks in from the left, hand held up in front of him, to where Hairy is sitting in an armchair facing away, sick from a second vaccination. Hairy is wrapped in a blanket and holding a steaming mug, and his hair is messy.]
- 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.
- [Cueball has walked around the chair and is now facing Hairy, whose mug continues to steam just as much.]
- 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, whose mug is steaming less.]
- Hairy: Update: my immune cells have unionized.
- Cueball: Common side effect. Helps maintain a healthy balance.
- [Cueball has raised a finger into the air, while Hairy is pointing in Cueball's direction. Hairy's mug is no longer steaming.]
- 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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