2515: Vaccine Research

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Vaccine Research
Honestly feel a little sheepish about the amount of time and effort I spent confirming "yes, the vaccine helps protect people from getting sick and dying" but I guess everyone needs a hobby.
Title text: Honestly feel a little sheepish about the amount of time and effort I spent confirming "yes, the vaccine helps protect people from getting sick and dying" but I guess everyone needs a hobby.


This comic is another entry in a series of comics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

The comic starts with White Hat using a common conversational tactic used by vaccine skeptics, and conspiracy theorists, in order to try to persuade others, typically claiming that they did their own research. The phrase "done my own research" is often taken to mean that the speaker is skeptical of the topic, and has done only cursory fact-checking, typically consulting only nonscientific sources that confirm and validate their prior beliefs. However, subverting expectations, it seems that White Hat genuinely had researched the subject deeply, consulting a large number of primary sources, and coming to a conclusion matching the overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccination against COVID-19 is safe and effective. The conclusion he expresses is humorously simple, but entirely in keeping with every expert analysis: "These vaccines are pretty good... Seems like it would be great if lots of people got them."

In the last panel, White Hat asks if there are any efforts to distribute the vaccine, to which Cueball responds with understated irony. Anyone genuinely informed about the vaccines would have to be aware of the huge scale of vaccine rollout efforts, or of the resistance to them. It strains credulity that someone could read "hundreds of studies" on the topic and not be aware of how many people had been vaccinated. Cueball, however, doesn't mock White Hat's incongruous ignorance, but simply responds that there's been "some effort", which satisfies White Hat.

At the time this strip was posted, only about 42.3% of the world population had been vaccinated against COVID-19. In low income countries, however, distribution has been negligible, and the rate is below 1.9%.

In the title text, Randall comments that he feels a little sheepish that he has spent way too much time and effort confirming the statement "yes, the vaccine helps protect people from getting sick and dying". This has been known for a long time despite the anti-vaxxers' efforts. But, as he states, this could be seen as a hobby. Anti-vaxxers also often refer to people who get vaccinated as "sheep" or "sheeple"; although, this may have dire consequences.

This comic may be a sort of spiritual successor to 2281: Coronavirus Research.


[White Hat is talking to Cueball.]
White Hat: I've been hearing about vaccines.
White Hat: But I decided to do my own research.
[In a frame-less panel White Hat continues to talk to Cueball.]
White Hat: So I spent months on the Internet reading hundreds of studies.
[Close up of White Hat as he speaks to Cueball, who replies from off-panel.]
White Hat: And wow, I gotta say,
White Hat: these vaccines are pretty good.
Cueball (off-panel): Oh, really.
[Zoomed back out, to White Hat and Cueball talking.]
White Hat: Yeah, seems like it'd be great if lots of people got them.
White Hat: Is anyone working on that?
Cueball: There's been some effort.
White Hat: Okay, cool.


  • This comic is listed as released on 2021-09-13 in the archive on xkcd - thus a normal Monday release.
    • However it was not released until well past midnight in mainland US, and even an hour after midnight in Hawaii.
    • So in principle this comic was first released on a Tuesday in all parts of the US.
    • But since Randall himself list this as released on a Monday, his date will be used here.

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Too bad White Hat and Randall didn't bother to research the other half of the question. YES, vaccines work to save lives. But There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, and you need to research *both* sides of any question, not just the side you agree with.Seebert (talk) 12:52, 14 September 2021 (UTC)

I really don't want this to turn into a long debate, but how do you know White Hat/Randall didn't find anything about the risks of vaccines? They never claim that and the fact that White Hat calls the vaccines "pretty good" instead of something like "perfect" would suggest he's aware of the downsides but considers the benefits to outweigh the risks. Bischoff (talk) 13:27, 14 September 2021 (UTC)
Since that's left ambiguous (deliberately?), one possible reading of the comic is as a joke on how "my own research" just reinforces prior beliefs, whatever they were. This reading doesn't play as well with the understatement in the punchline, though. -- 21:20, 14 September 2021 (UTC)

I don't trust the "scientists", so I decided to do my own research. Anyway, I need 5000 people for a double-blind clinical trial, so DM me if you know anyone interested. Svízel přítula (talk) 13:25, 14 September 2021 (UTC)

That's exactly where I thought this comic was going to go when I read the first panel. 18:07, 14 September 2021 (UTC)
It so happens that I did register to participate in vaccine trials. They didn't call on me yet, so I'm available. Reach out to the Coronavirus Prevention Network here: https://www.coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org/ and maybe I can be one of your subjects. Nitpicking (talk) 03:23, 15 September 2021 (UTC)

I'm unsure whether I'd call Cueball's response "nonchalant", nor that there's any indication as to his motives being deceptive. I read it more as US-style "irony", or UK-style "understatement as intensifier". -- 21:20, 14 September 2021 (UTC)

I read it as sarcastic, too. Perhaps the explanation should be updated. Sarcasm would also suggest that clearly White Hat doesn't know about the effort because they've spent so much time reading the already produced research on the "100s of Studies" Sem 1983 (talk) 21:26, 14 September 2021 (UTC)
Yeah, I did that. Hope my rework didn't suck. -- 21:47, 14 September 2021 (UTC)

Should we tag this as a Tuesday comic, or as a Monday comic? This comic was posted on the site on Tuesday, but the "official publication date" per https://xkcd.com/archive/ says it to be 9/13 (Monday). 22:03, 14 September 2021 (UTC)

If Randall states it is a Monday comic I think we should leave it as such, but it could be stated in a trivia that the comic was first released on Tuesday. Do we know exactly when it was released, and was it for sure Tuesday all over the world at that moment? --Kynde (talk) 10:15, 15 September 2021 (UTC)
It was later than its usual timeframe (hello from the UK where the exception seems to be that "today's" comic arrives "today" - usually they're an hour or three post-midnight) but if Randall the same nonchanlent attitude towards waking hours as me then even post 5AM might be 'intended' to count... 10:56, 15 September 2021 (UTC)
The bot that posted this comic posted it at 11:00 UTC on 9/14 (Tuesday), which corresponds to 4am Pacific Time and 7am Eastern. 17:53, 15 September 2021 (UTC)
And 1am Hawaii time. But still Monday near the date line where the US has possessions of small island. I have made a trivia about this. --Kynde (talk) 10:55, 16 September 2021 (UTC)

Did Randall misspell “sheepish” or is there a subtle joke in the title text? It reads “sheapish” as of this comment. 23:14, 14 September 2021 (UTC)

Says "sheepish" at 03:22 UTC Tuesday. Nitpicking (talk) 03:23, 15 September 2021 (UTC)
It also was the correct spelling when this page was created by the bot here on explain. --Kynde (talk) 10:52, 15 September 2021 (UTC)
I’m feeling gaslit. May need to check my eyesight. 13:19, 15 September 2021 (UTC)
He he, maybe ;-) --Kynde (talk) 10:55, 16 September 2021 (UTC)
I missed the use of "sheepish" on my first read, until this comment pointed it out. I suspect this is a reference to how some people refer to others as "sheep" for believing what experts are telling them. This should probably be included somehow. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 12:05, 15 September 2021 (UTC)
maybe a double entendre but I’m pretty sure Randall means the usual usage of sheepish - affected by or showing embarrassment caused by consciousness of fault 13:24, 15 September 2021 (UTC)
Agree with the usual meaning. --Kynde (talk) 10:55, 16 September 2021 (UTC)

I wonder if this is related with some declarations[citation needed] from rapper Nicki Minaj, unvaccinated, who, after becoming covid-positive, wrote in her Twitter that would leave music aside for a while to investigate by herself the effects of the vaccines. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I highly doubt it, but maybe is you could give us a link? --Kynde (talk) 10:55, 16 September 2021 (UTC)