2806: Anti-Vaxxers

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The vaccine stuff seems pretty simple. But if you take a closer look at the data, it's still simple, but bigger. And slightly blurry. Might need reading glasses.
Title text: The vaccine stuff seems pretty simple. But if you take a closer look at the data, it's still simple, but bigger. And slightly blurry. Might need reading glasses.


This is the first comic referencing COVID-19 in over half a year. Anti-vaxxers are people who are opposed to either vaccination in general, or specific vaccine schedules and mandates. The reasons given for this include global-scale conspiracy theories, various forms of pseudo-science, and concerns about vaccine novelty, efficacy and safety (despite the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community being that it's extremely safe and highly effective, and extensively tested). People in this group typically refuse to accept vaccination for themselves and their children, and some actively campaign against the use of vaccines. In this case, it refers implicitly to those who have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine.

The advice to "meet people where they are" is often given when interacting with people you don't agree with. The notion is that you should first seek to understand a person's beliefs, motives and reasoning, and try to respect why they think what they think. Cueball (presumably as a proxy for Randall) expresses support for that advice, but finds it difficult to understand anti-vaxxers. Multiple XKCD strips have made clear that Randall is highly supportive of the COVID-19 vaccines, and frustrated with people who oppose its use.

Cueball argues that dealing with the COVID pandemic was often confusing, leaving people uncertain about what to do. Prior to the availability of the vaccine, the methods used to control the spread of the disease (including masks, social distancing and lock-downs) were often proposed without clear data as to their effectiveness nor the best way to implement them; conflicting motives also played a role, such as the US government initially being reluctant to propose wearing masks due to concerns that it would lead to a resource shortage. This flip-flopping of information, Randall muses, should perhaps unsurprisingly lead to people becoming suspicious over the consensus rhetoric, never mind that of those who thought that the various mandates were already too tardy, brief, intermittent and/or permeable to properly delay and suppress the initial waves.

In light of all of this, Cueball sees the vaccine as near-miraculous. It's a highly simple intervention, requiring only a series of simple injections that are far less costly and disruptive than most other interventions. Data shows them to be extremely safe with few side effects, and they are more effective in the longer term than any other continuous intervention available. Cueball finds it incomprehensible that, in the middle of so much complexity and confusion, people would reject such a simple and effective solution.

The title text refers to the data concerning the vaccine. He argues that, when you look closely at the data, it continues to look exactly as compelling. For humor, he interprets the idiomatic statement "look closer", which typically means to examine additional details and context, literally. Previous strips have made the point that the effectiveness of COVID vaccines is so dramatic that even without rigorous statistical analysis, their impact would be obvious. The comment that it is 'slightly blurry' also has a double meaning - it could refer to the inability to focus the eyes properly when staring too closely at it, or it could be referring to the fact that most of the analysis of vaccine effectiveness is statistical in nature, and so has a stochastic, 'blurry' distribution, which 'sceptics' often point to to argue that the evidence is not 'clear cut'.


[Cueball, White Hat and Megan walking]
Cueball: I try to meet people where they are, but I have such a hard time with anti-vaxxers.
[Zoom out; a tree to the right is visible]
Cueball: The pandemic brought with it so much confusing stuff.
Cueball: Ambiguous data, weird tradeoffs, disagreements, dilemmas, and uncertainty.
[Zoom in on Cueball]
Cueball: It just feels like a miracle that the best and most effective intervention to reduce suffering also turned out to be one of the easiest and simplest.
Cueball: That never happens!
[Cueball, White Hat and Megan sitting around the tree]
Cueball: I hate that people are working so hard to make it complicated when it's one of the few things in this world that isn't.

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Did he forget to write a punchline? 05:31, 25 July 2023 (UTC) OH NO!!!!

I think this comic is just a comment, not a joke. Beanie talk 18:35, 26 July 2023 (UTC)

Nah punchline is in the title text LentilLord (talk) 06:15, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

Randall appears to express a "99th percentile fallacy", in which intelligent people (1%ers of a type) assume that all people will reason in the same way that they do, and will arrive at the same conclusions, if they will only try. The Wikipedia article on vaccine hesitancy contains (rough estimate) some 12,500 words, most of which discuss factors associated with the origin (a long time ago), propagation, and persistence of anti-vaccination movements and other forms of vaccine hesitancy. Twelve thousand words is not congruent with "simple". A common thread may be: the embracing and aggressive assertion of vaccine hesitancy, irrespective of any factual accuracy, represents the assertion of power over the intellectual 1%, which is attractive. Especially when it works. 07:09, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

Appealing to wiki page word count is truly a decision. By that metric the capitalization of the i in star trek into darkness is more complicated than vaccines. https://xkcd.com/1167/ 18:16, 4 August 2023 (UTC)
It's true that people have made the topic as lot more complex than it actually is, by coming up with many rationalisations and conspiracies to try to justify being anti-vax, and drawing unjustified conclusions from anecdotal correlations. 12:59, 25 July 2023 (UTC) B
One notable point is the herd immunity. Unlike lot of other vaccinated illnesses, there is no herd immunity from covid, because no matter how many vaccines you take and how many times you had covid, you can still spread it. Several politicians argued based on herd immunity even long after this became known. -- Hkmaly (talk) 18:31, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
Noteable point and useful illustration of the whole topic... There is no vaccine that produces herd immunity YET. But you write as if there never could be...Tier666 (talk) 07:29, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Herd immunity, as professed by those that mostly use that term in this context, is via not being immunised but "catching it normally, surviving (whilst passing it on to others, to hopefully repeat the process in everyone else) and forevermore not being bothered by it again". Of course, that requires surviving (not guaranteed, especially for some you'd be passing it on to) and gaining perpetual infection-induced-resistence (also not guaranteed, it turns out).
Immunising everyone, who can be immunised, drastically reduces the threat of individual fatality (rather than significant risk of dying from the virus, a non-zero but still magnitudes less risk from the injection) and yet actually throttles down the spreadability of the real thing to a similar degree (especially with pro-active variant-tuned boosters). Which is just basic immunity for most, acting as herd immunity who can't/won't be immunised if there aren't too many in the latter camp. But better just to be directly immunised where you don't have a very good reason to rely upon the protective status of everyone else around you. 09:53, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
I'm certainly not in the loop on every instance of someone using the term herd immunity, but it seems to me that it's always been used in the sense of protecting people who cannot safely become immune from infection by developing immunity among most other people, by either vaccination or by natural infection. Do you have any examples of herd immunity excluding immunization? 20:25, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Just take your mind back to the post-outbreak/pre-vaccine period of COVID, when there were those saying that "we don't need lockdowns", or testing, or restrictions of whatever degree of personal liberty they considered to be unduly infringed. Instead just let the virus do its thing (in a "bring it on!" way) and then we'll have herd immunity. Ok, so it was before the western world was clocking up deaths measured in way more than mere unfortunate handfuls. And when it was still generally imagined by even the experts that it was "catch it once, never again, and the coronavirus doesn't really mutate that quickly" scenario, but it was the main argument rolled out by the 'passive resistance to even reasonable authority' crowd, treating every suggested precaution as over-reach. Very loosely, as in overlapping in most ways but time, the proto-anti-vaxxers who just hadn't yet been presented a vaccine to actually be anti- to.
As I said, the 'proper' use of the Herd Immunity term is relevent to mass-vaccinations to shut off as many potential infection vectors as possible. But in the context of those already tilted against vaccines it tends to have been the buzzword for using 'pox parties' and other casual disregard for the dangers of live-and-wild viruses which, by design, only increases the spreading potential. 21:13, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
There was definitely a sense pre-vaccine that, once enough people caught it and developed natural immunity, then that would stop transmission and the pandemic would peter out. But that's still herd immunity. Your distinguishing of "proper" use of the term isn't correct, to my understanding. Herd immunity simply refers to enough of the population being immune so that there is a low chance of the non-immune being infected, regardless of how that immunity is developed. It's certainly less painful to get there through large scale vaccination than through natural infection, and the nature of a particular disease and its evolution versus the effectiveness of vaccination may affect the ability to get there, but the concept of herd immunity doesn't require vaccination. 13:18, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
Never say never, but the chance is extremely low. The problem is that the immunity you get is due to antibodies in blood. Which helps if covid gets into blood, helps if it gets to lungs, but covid starts in nose and can spread from there just fine - and blood-based antibodies don't work there. There is separate immunity layer there on mucous membranes, but that one is very bad at remembering stuff long-term AND won't learn anything from injections ever. I've read about some attempts to make vaccines in form of some nasal spray, but it would need to be repeated at least every three months ... and seems those attempts failed. -- Hkmaly (talk) 19:21, 27 July 2023 (UTC)

I added a bunch of info, including a disclaimer to take this with a grain of salt. I normally don't comment on Randall's political comics, as I disagree with nearly all of them, but this one irritates me more than most and borders dangerously close to misinformation. Randall is a physicist. I don't know his familiarity with the virology world, but I would presume not much. I'm a biologist by degree and career. Emphasis on microbiology. I'm not vaccinated for Covid-19. I never will be. I am vaccinated for everything else. I don't trust the vaccine for a number of reasons, not just because there are a statistically significant number of cases of severe harm and death. Darkwolf0218 (talk) 07:52, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

That, my friend, is an appeal to authority - an all-too-common logical fallacy. Yes, Randall may be a physicist and you may be a biologist. But that represents absolutely ZERO evidence that you are right and he is wrong. It is a complete and utter non-argument. 15:29, 6 November 2023 (UTC)
What is your personal definition of "statistically significant number of cases of severe harm and death"? is it greater, by any chance, than the risk of death by NOT taking a vaccine? These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 02:09, 1 August 2023 (UTC)
I'm glad that a vaccine dose wasn't wasted on you, and can go to someone else who deserves it. I also hope that you don't seek medical attention when you do contract the virus, because those resources can be used for better people as well. 21:47, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
What a horrible thing to say to someone. It's exactly this sort of thing that makes people resist changing their minds: why would you want to have anything in common with someone who would say such terrible things?
Vaccines can have very harmful effects in some cases, but isn't it still safer than the increased risk of COVID-caused death or side effects? MelodyOfStorms (talk) 17:55, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
I don't know it it is a named bias, but I have noticed that people working in a field often don't trust their own field, because they know "how it is done". For example, I work in the aeronautics industry, and many of my colleagues avoid flying, because they get to see everything that's done wrong and get first in line when something bad happens. But they don't realize that if you take a step back and look at the numbers, thanks to redundancy and safety margins, flying is actually quite safe. Other examples include internet security professionals who avoid online purchases.
No, the cybersecurity folks are objectively correct, it's very much a dismal science at the moment, as soft is full of holes and people are largely too gullible. Not to mention every modern PC has a government-mandated backdoor! The question is usually not how safe you are (you aren't), but how much you have to lose. 11:56, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
I'm not sure... IMO, the amount of direct, obvious hacking going around has plummeted. Main problem is all the ludicrous phishers and spam emails that pop up everywhere. Maybe it's just me, but saying that cybersecurity is essentially rotten at the core seems a bit sensationalized to me. 84596Gamma (talk) 13:18, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
EVERY PC? While getting rid of Intel ME is problem, the situation is much better regarding AMD. -- Hkmaly (talk) 18:31, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
(Almost) nobody claims science "disproves" God, though. The problem is actually that he cannot be disproven, and such things are outside the domain of science. 08:03, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
Likewise, it's never possible to prove that any given vaccine won't cause harm. I'm allergic to live vaccines. Just... all of them. Any live vaccine I take, I will react to. I've been told, time and again, that that's impossible, that science assures us these are safe, and yet, every time, I get symptoms of the disease. I've been a scientist, in the strictest definition of the word, for over 5 years now, and I've learned that there is nearly nothing in science that is concrete. Even the established basic laws of the universe are occasionally modified as we learn about things like quarks and antimatter. Dark matter still violates the known laws of physics, but the data suggest that it must exist. I'm also a Christian who believes that science does not disprove the existence of Creation but rather supports the idea of intelligent (or at least guided) design. We can't disprove the existence of God because it is nearly impossible to conclusively disprove anything with 100% certainty. Even things we think are true, such as the speed-of-light limitation (does light travel the same speed in both directions or does it move instantly one way and half speed back? We can never know for sure [1]) are not conclusive. -- Darkwolf0218 (talk) 08:17, 25 July 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Many COVID vaccines are of course not Live. Depends which country you're in whether that's your only (or dominant) option, perhaps. And my (mRNA) first shot gave me a delayed-by-a-few-hours reaction "as if they'd injected a virus in me", which was unpleasant but (clearly) I survived to get a second (booster of the same) and third (booster of a different kind), as suggested for my particular age-slot. Neither of those caused problems, if you'd accept this just as a self-selecting anecdote, and when I finally maybe got COVID (or just a flu-like thing that general isolation had held up, letting it hit harder once people were being much less virologically cautious again/overcompensating by licking each other constantly) it was something I suffered but survived, whereas it's hard to say that I would have beforehand.
Science does not support a 'designer', it's an undefined/undefinable issue. Any Sufficiently Omnipotent God could have designed and created the world last Tuesday, with all your and my memories, experiences and beliefs in place, and it would be untestable for. Science indicates a singularity start to the universe-as-we-see-it, but finds no reason to believe a 'designer' sparked it off. They would have to be sufficiently cogniscent as to know that the particle/radiation mix would eventually coellesce into a planet upon which one particular belief system actually 'worked out' what they did (and many others made up their own, wrong, versions!). Which perhaps means that the Designer ran through the scenario in Their head before they lit the spark, which raises of the question of whether we're actually the pre-spark thought experiment, being simulated to see what will work. And maybe the God Of Logic deciding upon this doesn't like beings who decide that They exist even though he left no proof, so He'll never actually create us but instead go for a more rational full on agnostic universe when They eventually do the real thing. Disprove that! (Science can't. Theology can't. Never mind, it doesn't matter to a Designer. Only to other people Designed or accidental byproducts of any other process.)
There are always gaps in science, which more science tries to make narrower (or find new gaps, in the process). Religion tends to pretend there are no gaps, or papers over the gaps with temporary repairs. You can mix science and religion to your own tastes; or stick to just one and put aside the other as irrelevent - either way, but with totally different outcomes in how you deal with the world (and how the world deals with you). 09:16, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
One could explain to a 5-year-old why people get symptoms from vaccines - some vaccines contain a weakened version of the virus (not Covid, FWIW), while others may cause an immune system reaction to generate anti-bodies, and the immune response is where many symptoms come from. It's concerning that you claim to be a biologist and you don't seem to know this (of course, you could also just be lying about that). 12:59, 25 July 2023 (UTC) B
Please keep in mind that a "statistically significant number" is not the same as an actually significant number. Yes, there are more complications than with giving a placebo. Statistically significantly (meaning: more than can reasonably dismissed as random chance) so. No, there are not that many severe complications, especially the mRNA vaccines are quite safe. They are both statistically and actually significantly safer than a CoViD 19 infection or even the general risk of an infection and they offer significant (again statistically and actually) protection from both infection and complications thereof. Lying with statistics is a thing and it mostly happens not because of bad numbers but because people don't know how to read them. 627235 (talk) 12:38, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
Darkwolf0218, I'm genuinely curious what your reasons are. I don't really take anyone's word for it when they say "statistics support me," so, is there a link you can share that you feel is unanswerable? And see how the pro-vax crowd tries to answer it? I really do feel like I'm caught on the fence in a lot of this; the pro-vax crowd APPEARS to have so much expertise, but they're such smug and condescending jerks about it - and they NEVER really seem to engage with what their opponents are ACTUALLY saying - that I feel I'm forced to go to "neutral" talk pages like this one to see what the best arguments "for" and "against" actually are. Many thanks if you ever end up replying! --MeZimm 18:25, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
As a general note: the reason that the pro-vax crowd are smug and condescending jerks is the same reason that I, among many others, am frequently unable to be polite to flat-earthers. What do you engage with when your opponent understands nothing and is obviously wrong? What else should you do, if someone advocates a cult of death for what you intuitively know is no good reason at all? There's nothing fair. It's like calling out people who uphold the historicity of the Holocaust for being mean to Holocaust deniers: Holocaust deniers understand almost nothing about the actual event and they discredit themselves the moment they make a cogent point, so there's no point in trying to uphold false notions of equivalence of respect. At any rate, we engage with their arguments and disprove them ad-nauseam. Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 16:23, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Well, what is your intention? Is it to change minds? Is it to set the record straight? Is it to learn how they think? Or is it to trash-talk people that you don't like (with the inevitable consequence of making them despise you and everything you stand for, and dig in their heels further, and also incidentally come across as an irrational jerk to any undecided people who might be reading the discussion.)
Take the flat-earth analogy: if I were to talk to someone who seemed genuinely convinced that there was a flat earth, I wouldn't suggest they were worthless or that it would be better if they were dead (as was *actually done* to Darkwolf0218 in this very thread!) I would ask what they felt was their best argument, or what (if anything) would change their minds. Depending on how they answer, I can validate whatever legitimacy there may be to their perspectives, carefully explain why I think my beliefs are justified, identify the place where our understandings diverge, fill in gaps in their knowledge which might be useful to forming a more complete understanding of the subject, and (if nothing else) show to all the people reading why my perspective is the reasonable one based on good-faith understanding of the evidence available.
And, on the off-chance that I am shown to be wrong about something, I can accept correction gracefully.
You refer to "death cults" in your response. Do you know what causes people to stay in cults? It's the perception that everyone outside the cult seems like a hostile aggressor and that the cult is the only place where they will find acceptance. People LEAVE cults when they are compassionately shown that there are better ways to live. -MeZimm 17:02, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
I understand that responses can be biting and themselves dissuading. However, there's a fair amount of reasons that these comments get made so biting anyway, and maybe some of them will be illuminating.
Plenty of people want to change minds. Some just want to trash-talk (and it's not as if this is entirely undeserved). It is also true that anti vaxers have hardly ever been historically accepting of new information or anything that doesn't fit what they've already made up about the topic, so people justifiably perceive changing minds as near-impossible (and my estimation is that even now flow from pro to anti is still higher than the converse). It also stands that anti-vaccination has hardly ever come up with any alternate responses to the COVID pandemic than just "keep doing what we were doing", which is proven to cause more death. With that standing, and with the fact that we recognize thinly-veiled anti-vax rhetoric when we see it like with Darkwolf0218, the comment at them about not using up resources is - if not justified - entirely understandable to me.
"whatever legitimacy there may be to their perspectives" is usually taken out of context and warped (e.g. the thalidomide scandal, which happened 60 years ago and with the drug not being approved by the FDA anyway, is being used as a recent and currently-relevant example of pharmaceutical wrongdoing). Careful explanation has been tried, and yet they just dig in or bring up the same thing again. "filling in gaps in their knowledge" is hardly effective when all those gaps magically open at the same places. And reams of papers and other writing, as well as historical evidence, have found that pro-vax is the best method. Also, any being wrong about a claim tends to be simply ignored.
Anti-vaxxers are hardly immune to the perception that you mention, because they (and other conspiracy theorists) are quick to name-call anything that doesn't fit their view as being shilled. Compassion has been tried, yes, but the most common response by loads is "shut up you shill" or some other new argument which has already been debunked. And when you've tried everything, and none of it works... you might be tempted to vent and call it quits for the moment. Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 18:35, 26 July 2023 (UTC)

It's important to remember that we have all been exposed to aggressive and conflicting media and messaging. Randall's been exposed to media and messaging intended for mainstream intellectuals, whereas others have been exposed to "antivax" media and messaging. _Both_ of these are pushing a view while discrediting any counterinformation, and also contain true infornation. Combining them fairly is a noble and difficult goal. 10:26, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

It's important to remember that the other side may not have nearly as aggressive or one-sided messaging as your side has. Those who oppose the scientific consensus are notoriously aggressive and tend to repeat the same things over and over again without bringing up or addressing counter-arguments, whereas many science communicators have responded to antivaxx claims. Both sides may be pushing back against what the other side is saying, but only one side is supported by like 99%+ of the people who've professionally studied the topic. Most of antivaxx is spread by celebrities and internet personalities with no scientific education. If you're inclined to try to understand everything each side is saying, go for it. But for laypeople, "trust the experts on their topic of expertise" is a fairly good rule of thumb. 11:30, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
That has not been my experience. My experience is that (intelligent) dissenters from mainstream views point to specific facts that appear (at least on the surface) to challenge or even debunk the mainstream view, and have specific (and eminently reasonable) questions about those facts which they cannot find a "mainstream" answer for (without being yelled at and called names, or at the very least, being told "don't worry about it, the experts have done your thinking for you." The only people they can find actually talking about such questions are their fellow dissenters, and so it is among their fellow dissenters that they find a home. -MeZimm 17:25, 26 July 2023 (UTC)

The problem with how covid was handled is that it incentivizes pharmaceutical manufacturers, spy agencies, and major digital service providers to stimulate pandemics. 10:49, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

Unrelated to the curr. comic but does anyone find it odd that Randall doesn't make any comics about the Russian invasion of Ukraine? 84596Gamma (talk) 11:56, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

Not really? The only time XKCD really got political was when Trump was upon the land, usually he's not as topical. And while the current madness is also depressing, Randall is unlikely to be affected by it as much -- enviable, really! 12:06, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
It's also fair to say that an armed conflict that affects a specific group is much harder to make anything approaching a joke--whereas the pandemic was something that affected nearly everyone and had the potential to highlight themes of hope and humanity even amidst the confusion and death Dextrous Fred (talk) 18:12, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

Does anyone know where I can find a calm, measured discussion between intelligent, informed, and reasonable people who disagree on this topic? (And if you think "my side is the only side that has intelligent, informed, and reasonable people" - that kind of thinking is exactly what perpetuates the polarization problem, which makes it hard to find such discussions.) -MeZimm 15:49, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

In general, the place to go is probably what are known as rationalist groups. The main locus is probably LessWrong, but there are also important nodes at AstralCodexTen on Substack, its now-static ancestor, SlateStarCodex, and several other descendant sites. They specialize in trying to think about and discuss even prickly subjects, as rationally as they can (which necessarily includes them factoring in some epistemic humility). Personally, I think they might be a bit over-committed to runaway-AI position (even they have some bias they can't get out of, and they happen to have a large proportion of Bay Area tech researchers), but on the upside, they're a worldwide bunch, so they at least avoid some biases you're probably seeing more frequently. Rationalists are typically fans of XKCD themselves, since they're all very science-focused. // Other sources for reasonable discussion of COVID, particularly the "mRNA vaccines aren't necessarily good for you" position, include Bret Weinstein's and Heather Heying's Dark Horse Podcast (they're both evolutionary biologists), and, believe it or not, Joe Rogan - cut away the stand-up and MMA, and he gets some honestly intellectually stimulating guests, such as Michael Osterholm and Robert Malone. // For the "mRNA vaccines are probably good for you" position, there's Derek Lowe's In The Pipeline blog. All of these discuss other topics in addition to COVID, so search around. 16:30, 27 July 2023 (UTC)
Joe Rogan lets conspiracy theorists on his show, and just nods along as they spout their conspiracies, often without a hint of pushback. If you're looking for an actual debate, where each side brings their best, you're not going to find it there. 16:38, 27 July 2023 (UTC) B
I think there do exist conspiracy theorists that have appeared on Rogan's show, but I'm fairly sure Osterholm was not one of them. Nor was Malone (the fellow who invented the entire mRNA technique). Either way, I think it's hard to find debate on JRE, but not for that reason; rather, it's because Rogan's approach is to largely let whoever his guest is, talk. That's important, because while we can probably agree that if a conspiracy theorist gets on Rogan and speaks at length, the other direction doesn't work - someone speaking at length on Rogan doesn't mean they're a conspiracy theorist. // Additionally, there's another problem with using "CT!" as a counterargument. It tacitly implies that institutions are trustworthy, in order to show that the conspiracy is false, and the theorist cannot be trusted. However, there's evidence that institutions have incentive to lie. Presenting that evidence will sound like a conspiracy is being offered, when the party to trust is the opposite of what one would expect. The remedy there is non-trivial: you have to look at the actual claims made, not the claimants. And you have to look at *both* parties' claims; often, the claims made by the challenger might be on reputation, but so are those made by the institution. If we try to say the institution can be trusted more, we run into a circular argument. 17:42, 27 July 2023 (UTC)
Conspiracy theorists are people who present a theory (in the colloquial sense, i.e. roughly a guess) of a conspiracy. It doesn't "tacitly imply institutions are trustworthy"; it implies that they don't have justification for whatever they're claiming about institutions. If you claim that Nazis were hiding advanced alien technology, calling that a conspiracy theory doesn't imply trust in Nazis, it just implies that you think that claim is rather detached from reality. And I don't know who Osterholm is; I was just making a general statement about how Rogan does stuff. Although Malone might be a conspiracy theorist, and saying he "invented the entire mRNA technique" is somewhere between misleading or false - he, along with his co-authors, just wrote 2 early papers, amongst hundreds of researchers who contributed to mRNA vaccine research. 18:58, 27 July 2023 (UTC) B
Randal obviously has knowledge and opinions on a lot of topics, and the comic often covers topics ranging from love to linguistics. If you see this as preaching, this might not be the comic for you. As for as that "fair and balanced" discussion you are looking for, have you considered that maybe this is one of those topics where intelligent, informed, reasonable people actually fall almost entirely on one side? With some questions, logic leads to the same conclusion for most people who make use of it. This is why you rarely find rational people engaging in debate over the truth of the moon landings, the sphericity of the earth, or the existence of anthropogenic climate change. 19:36, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
I see your point, and I don't have a detailed answer, but peer-reviewed studies are at least a good place to start to inform what talking points are defensible and which may be based in shakier assumptions. Dextrous Fred (talk) 18:11, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
I'd add that this comic clearly isn't about vaccine-critical (as in 'weighing the pros and cons, finding a personal balance of probability whether they confer a net help or harm), but those who start by being anti-whatever and suck up every contrary opinion out there in order to shore up their presupposed position. They don't want to be moved. And possibly some pro-vaccine people also don't want to be, but my experience is that there's many more resonable people who can be swayed by nuances.
No, not everyone can be given a vaccine (if you have a suppressed immune system, for whatever reason, then it also probably can't be 'taught', in the way a fully functioning one can be, but any risks associated with them are at least as potent and ultimately more of a factor) but that makes it more important that those around them are (it's not just those individuals that need the advantages). Or enforced isolation, which has psychological, physiological and/or financial side-effects that became very obvious during various Lockdowns (definitely necessary prior to the vaccines being developed and tested, thankfully became less needed after they were, but always a balancing act).
But full on anti-vax thoughts tend to be just "against anything the 'experts' say", drawing upon the more extreme 'theories' that invoke everything from 5G conspiracies to Microsoft-manufactired nanoparticle trackers in a house of cards that they've desperately stapled together to stop any bit of it falling down. And that's not a (mentally, at least initially) healthy place to be - or to try to be in putting yourself in their shoes whilst looking for a compromise position. 18:40, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
There has been plenty of calm, measured discussion between intelligent people (but one side of most debates will inevitably have underinformed or less-than-reasonable people). But these discussions have been had so many times, and people just keep repeating the same things over and over again, regardless of how many times it's been addressed (and in many cases claims have gotten less reality-based, like claiming that all governments and scientists worldwide are colluding to lie to the public - that isn't even considered a particularly extreme view in public discourse). People loudly taking a firm stance on the opposing side have contributed to public distrust of vaccines and science as a whole, which led to the deaths of millions of people so far (never mind the long-term damage that could result distrusting experts). People who contributed to the deaths of millions of people tend not to be treated too kindly. But if you'd like to be more informed on the topic and you ask questions in good faith, people will respond calmly and respectfully, more often than not (although there are also plenty of resources available to read up on the topic). 19:01, 25 July 2023 (UTC) B
If, as you say, there is "plenty of" such discussion, then I am begging you: give me a link to the calmest and most measured discussion you are aware of between a pro-vaxxer and an anti-vaxxer. Or at least, a discussion that's in your top twenty "calmest and most measured" of such discussions. Because I cannot find one to save my life. -MeZimm 19:19, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
Plenty of science communication channels and wikipedia.org cover this well. Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 16:29, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
I don't know that I'd be able to find such a debate any time soon. It's been years since that debate was worth having. At this point, if you're looking for that, your best bet is probably to put together what each side has said in their separate corners. Calm and reasoned responses to anti-vaxx arguments is probably a lot easier to find than live debates - most science communicators I know of on YouTube discussed the topic, or you can just head to Wikipedia. 02:40, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
That conversation can happen, but it is extremely painful to have. It is not a discussion that is easy to have in a calm and measured way simply because of the magnitude of the circumstances and the polarization. Nonetheless, some people are open to speak, especially if you listen. Also, a lot of people trust their experience, and this has opened them up to different ideas. Scienceizkool (talk) 05:37, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
"intelligent, informed, and reasonable people" - this is a contradiction in terms - humans are primarily big bags of irrational emotions and biases, with a limited capacity for assimilating information. The best you can hope for is someone who is slightly less so than the rest. 10:47, 27 July 2023 (UTC)

It's really disappointing to see the anti-vaxxers coming out of the woodwork for this comic, I'd assume that most xkcd fans would be more scientifically minded and logical. I definitely agree with Randall on this one, the data is so obvious and unambiguous about how effective the vaccines are, yet people love to pretend that the minor side effects are somehow worse than the illness they prevent, despite having absolutely no evidence other than perhaps some exaggerated anecdotes they heard from a Youtuber's cousin's friend's sister. I've had the vaccine, I've had Covid, the actual disease is far worse than the vaccine's minor side effects. More anecdata, but the science all agrees with it. Sigh. PotatoGod (talk) 18:14, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

I'd probably believe both the anti-vaxx threads started in the talk page are all flamebait from lame trolls. Think about it: who the heck reads xkcd, is able to actually write a iscussion thread, and then waste that discussion thread activating their conspiracy theory neurons and yelling out goddamn infuriatingly sensationalized words like "misinformation" and "propaganda".84596Gamma (talk) 22:10, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
There are surprisingly many anti-vaxxers among the well educated. That includes doctors. I think there is something viscerally unsettling with injecting stuff into our bodies, especially something that not only doesn't treat an illness but makes us a little sick. And it is stuff that has not been tried on a large scale before, that we know will cause serious complications or even death to a some people (even if it saves much more). It is scary, and it can interfere with our abilities to think rationally. On a subconscious level, it is something we try to avoid, and we will find every reason. 01:44, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
To quote Richard Feynman (no really), "Of course you laugh at this because it’s self-evident to the rational mind, but not to the emotional mind—the emotional mind can’t laugh at this." 84596Gamma (talk) 02:01, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Yes, injecting stuff into our bodies is viscerally unsettling, and it makes your arm hurt a little and it might make you a little sick for a day or so. And this is all to fight against an invisible disease that spreads through the air and has killed millions of humans, that just randomly showed up one day, and may randomly kill us too, and there's only so much we can do to prevent that (like injecting the above thing, which reduces our risk massively). And all that can be scary, and that can interfere with our ability to think rationally. And on a subconscious level, it is something we try to avoid, and we will find every reason. And some of those reasons include thinking that maybe it hasn't been tested quite enough, or maybe there are frequently complications (and a whole lot of other reasons), but that doesn't mean those reasons are actually justified nor that they correspond to the truth. 02:27, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
It's disappointing, but of course the comments on such a comic are going to be a self-selected group of people who felt the need to speak up. This is, admittedly, not a comic that most people need the explanation for. A vocal minority is no reflection on the bulk of Randall's readership. And for those who came to this page to express a dissenting view, we absolutely look forward to civil debate and well-cited caveats. As someone who has trawled the ancient depths of this wiki, the political comics always get a certain amount of "Randall has jumped the shark" (from a comic in 2010) or "this one isn't funny". It's just a normal part of any feedback system. Dextrous Fred (talk) 18:19, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
'the science all agrees with it'. The science doesn't even agree with the previous science. It doesn't even agree with the current science. It is supposed to be a critical discipline. Meaning that ideas that have been rejected or branded as wrong can be explored nonetheless. There is no one science. You should know that all scientific progress comes from the fringes, and almost always is met with rejection and revilement. Scienceizkool (talk) 05:37, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
Significant scientific progress may have come from the fringes, but this very, very rarely happens. Just think for a second what you're actually saying: that "all" progress is made by scrapping much of what we know and replacing it with entirely new things. No, most progress is made in small increments by building on existing knowledge, in line with the scientific consensus. And modern scientists are more open than ever to bring proven wrong (and many are even excited at the prospect, because that means new stuff to learn), as long as, and here's the crucial part, it's actually supported by evidence. Most "revilement" in the past came from the religious, who didn't want to accept that all that exists doesn't revolve around humanity (many still don't accept this). In any case, I'll accept you saying that roughly no-one agrees with you, but you thinking this somehow gives any credence to your position is you taking a massive leap of logic, possibly through a brink wall or ten (you're employing flat Earth "logic" there). 13:53, 28 July 2023 (UTC) B

Surely this is an allegory to climate change with the tree being the indicator

How? 84596Gamma (talk) 02:01, 26 July 2023 (UTC)

People are trying to edit the page to be "more balanced" by spreading vaccine hesitancy. I don't really know where to draw the line between accurately representing their position and not giving them a platform to do harm. 22:23, 25 July 2023 (UTC) B

This comic has gotten more comments in a day than most comics do in a year. Just thought I'd point that out. Trogdor147 (talk) 22:43, 25 July 2023 (UTC)

Actually maybe not more comments, just more words. Trogdor147 (talk) 22:51, 25 July 2023 (UTC)
Probably because unlike the other vaccine/covid related XKCDs, this one seems to be missing a punchline and therefore reads as preachy. 03:17, 28 July 2023 (UTC)

This one is probably the creepiest of all COVID comics. It starts with a variant of "I'm not a racist, but" and goes on to call the enormously complex bio-engineered vaccines "the easiest and simplest intervention". Oh no, dear reader, you don't need to understand the technical details. The Science works in mysterious ways. But in Its infinite love, It commands you to inject Its miraculous gift, not once, not twice, but as many times as The Science tells you. The Data says it's safe, therefore it's safe. This is what's easy, this is what's simple, and this is all you need to know, you infidel antivaxxer.

The development of vaccines is "enormously complex", but this is primarily relevant to people with multiple degrees in microbiology. For the general public, it's as simple as "stick this in your arm to not get sick". Most people know nothing about food production, but trust things they buy in the supermarket. Most people know nothing about construction materials and processes, but trust that a building won't collapse in on itself. Heck, this even applies to medicine, where people are more than happy to let a doctor inject whatever while they're in the hospital. But when it comes to vaccines, everyone seems to think of themselves as an expert, when roughly every person who's studied the topic professionally is telling them they're mistaken. If you want to become an expert, or learn from experts, go for it, but if you're not an expert, you probably shouldn't think of yourself as one. 09:38, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
This is where the creepiness of the comic comes from: instead of appealing to logic and reason, it demands trust. But one does not earn trust with a long history of controversies, making their services mandatory, aggressive propaganda, censorship, or saccharine web-comics. If it weren't for the reputation of the vax crowd (governments, corporations, media and general laypeople combined), I'd probably consider doing it. 11:14, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
We have spent massive amounts of time appealing to logic and reason to explain why antivaxx isn't justified (and how "a long history of controversies", "propaganda" and "censorship" are all greatly misleading, if not entirely false), but that hasn't worked for many. Humans aren't all that rational, especially on topics that carry emotional appeal (and the other side isn't immune to that, but there are more people on that side who try to actively counteract that weakness we all have through skepticism, and that side also has expert judgement on their side). And the comic never mentions trust. It only states that vaccines are effective. You can either trust scientists on that, or you can engage with the science to find out why that is - your choice. But also, trusting experts on their topic of expertise is fairly logical (while trusting people who know very little about the topic, or trusting your own intuitive feelings, is not all that reliable and therefore not all that logical). 13:16, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
Is the thalidomide scandal greatly misleading or entirely false? Many smaller pharmaceutical scandals. The "misinformation policies" of Youtube - can't argue with the WHO, can't doubt the US presidential elections.
Vaccines are effective - to some extent - and they all have side effects. It's obvious that the pharmaceutical companies that produce them are financially motivated to exaggerate the positive effects, downplay or hide the adverse ones, and sell as much doses as possible. Knowledge and power don't somehow make an entity truthful. On the contrary, with greater knowledge and greater power, its lies become harder to detect, sometimes even dangerous to expose. Society has a moral obligation to doubt and question, rather than blindly accept everything the authorities say, as Cueball recommends. 15:32, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
The FDA refused to approve thalidomide, so there goes most of your argument (despite this, they also added even more regulations as a result of this). Also, why is the only example you offer from 60 years ago? If you know anything whatsoever about medical history, you should know that what happened that long ago might as well have been happening on a different planet for how different it is from modern medicine, given how much more we've learnt about medicine and safe and effective medical practices (which included learning from the mistakes of our past). 18:06, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
There used to be a nice long list of controversies on Wikipedia that I wanted to share, but it seems to be gone. Here's random page describing six scandals from 1986 to 2020, found by googling "Pfizer controversies": https://corporatewatch.org/pfizer-six-scandals-to-remember/ Feel free to substitute Pfizer with Johnson&Johnson and the like in the search bar. 19:16, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Of course pharmaceutical companies are financially motivated, and are often very, very greedy. If you've ever listened any amount to a pro-vaccine science communicator, you've probably have heard them complaining about that. But that doesn't mean the entire system of regulation and verification that's been built around that cannot be trusted. Ending up in prison for fabricating results would be rather contrary to their goal of making money. 18:06, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
Big Pharma is a big (heh) problem. Many people, on either side, are cognizant of it, but one should understand that Pharma is pragmatic - not always-evil OR always-good, but they're rather willing to do unethical things in the name of money. With that said, COVID-19 doesn't have much reason to be one of them. They made their billions, and COVID clearly isn't as much of a problem as it was two or three years ago. Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 18:14, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Trust is a spectrum! Note how the link above doesn't mention imprisonment, only fines, which suggests that Big Pharma is balancing on its own spectrum of conscientiousness, looking for the optimal point that maximizes profits minus fines. 19:16, 26 July 2023 (UTC)

I thought the easiest and simplest intervention was to rely on the natural immune response to produce antibodies. Not sure if it's the most effective though, but it's proven to be effective enough for me personally, and it definitely has the best effectiveness to complexity ratio. Anyway, the decisive advantage of the method is not siding with the modern mass-surveilling thought-controlling Inquisition. 08:00, 26 July 2023 (UTC)

Yeah, and quite a few people who considered their natural immune response to be effective enough are dead now. Anecdotes is not how you determine whether something works or not. 09:38, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
(@172.71...) Have you understood the point of this comic? Oh well, never mind. 09:53, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Imagine a company selling a pocket device that has been rigorously proven to reduce 1000 times the chance of being struck by a lightning. The company routinely electrocutes kittens in public to show what happens to those unprotected, and the company's fans are notorious for patronizing and lecturing those who haven't yet purchased the device. Would you buy it? As for myself, while generally trying to avoid death and suffering, I can afford the luxury to pay with a tiny fraction of my expected lifetime for other things I value. 11:14, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
A few thousand people have gotten killed by lightning in the same time it took Covid to kill millions (and that's with a bunch of preventative measures against Covid). So that analogy is completely on the wrong scale. Absolutely no idea where you get "electrocutes kittens in public" from. Many people are dying all by themselves. We're the ones trying to STOP deaths. At best we sometimes point deaths out when people try to imply or assert that it's not serious. So are you intentionally dishonest, or just accidentally dishonest? 11:30, 26 July 2023 (UTC) B
Low probabilities do matter at the national level as they accumulate into mortality statistics, but in daily life, people tend to classify things as either dangerous or safe-ish. On the global scale, cars kill (say) millions, and lightnings kill (say) thousands. Does this difference of three orders of magnitude matter that much? People drive their cars fearlessly and don't panic when they spot a storm cloud. On the other hand, we mortals are doomed to die, and no matter how hard we try, it's still impossible to STOP death. Considering the whole bulk of death causes combined, it seems you are influenced by so-called "zero-risk bias", i.e. focusing on minimizing one particular type of risk while disregarding the rest of them.
As for the public kitten electrocution (for the greater good of inducing electricity fear and stopping lightning deaths), it's a metaphor for behavior one might find repelling: semi-mandatory vaccinations, aggressive propaganda, social media censorship etc. And what's dishonest in taking a small risk to make a point? Why can't you respect my personal decision? Essential liberty, little temporary safety, Benjamin Franklin. 13:24, 26 July 2023 (UTC)

Counterpoint: anyone who wants to give up others' safety for a little of their own liberty also deserves neither (which I would argue is just as important as Franklin's sentiment), and the ideology of antivaxxers causes mass-death for essentially no reason. Why can't you respect the decision of the world around you to not be at risk of death because they're next to you? Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 16:15, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Hmm, I guess essential is more valuable than little and temporary, be it safety or liberty. Then again, in reality, the vaxxers are safe with their unreasonably effective vaccine, and the antivaxxers are only responsible for their own well-being. No harm done! 17:22, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
I wouldn't be so sure about that, because there are people who intend to get the vaccine but cannot right now, and antivaxxers risk exposing them too. Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 18:06, 26 July 2023 (UTC)
Fine, some harm is done (in a probabilistic sense). In a world where car owners don't feel guilty for being probabilistic suicide killers, and most Covid-fearing people can get their shots, I find this threat level acceptable. 04:00, 27 July 2023 (UTC)
To some extent, people who own automobiles aren't in much control over their transportation (though I'm fully in favor of scrapping automobiles for transport and replacing them with trains). You're in full control to sign up and get the COVID vaccine, but you've already outed yourself as a death cultist when you casually refer to the proven incitement of death by antivaxxers as acceptable, so I'd rather you just hole yourself up in your room and let a better person than you get the shot they need. Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 16:31, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
"anyone who wants to give up others' safety for a little of their own liberty also deserves neither" - a misquote of Benjamin Franklin, who was objecting to a proposal by the Penn family (which was ruling Pennsylvania from britain at the time) to give the Pennsylvania General Assembly a lump-sum one-time payment in exchange for the Pennsylvania General Assembly agreeing it didn't have authority to tax the Penns.[2] It had nothing to do with the desire of antivax cultists to be fucking narcissistic plague rats.
Pfft, better to be a free narcissistic plague rat than a caged narcissistic lab rat. 04:00, 27 July 2023 (UTC)

I'm actually wondering whether this comic is meant to say A) Antivaxxers made/make things complicated while it isn't. Or B) Whether or not you decided to take the vaccine was a very complicated decision for some ('the pandemic brought with it so much confusing stuff. Ambiguous data, weird tradeoffs, disagreements, dilemmas, and uncertainty'), so if you really try to 'meet people where they are' you should be open-minded to speak with people on both sides, people that took the vaccine and people that didn't. Although Cueball claims to be open-minded, he can't fathom the idea that although taking the vaccine felt like the most effective, easiest and simplest intervention to him, there might be people out there (maybe even the other two people in the comic, who don't say a word) that made another decision, because they felt that decision was better for them, not just 'to make it complicated'. This comic was sent in the chat of my group of friends and it seems there are different ways to interpret the comic. Either it's a very good comic or I'm overthinking it (I'm leaning towards explanation B). What do you think? K (talk) 14:00, 26 July 2023 (UTC) K

Was there some news event or something that prompted this? Seems so random at this point. 19:05, 26 July 2023 (UTC)

Let's make it quite simple. Meeting antivax nutjobs 'where they are' is impossible for sane people, because there IS no logic to the insane antivax cultist position. "You can't logic someone out of a position they didn't logic themselves into."

This is a matter of personal preference, not logic. You can't logic someone into liking apples, insults won't help you either. In fact, this kind of attitude might contribute a lot to the person's distaste for apples. 06:09, 27 July 2023 (UTC)
Do you think people LIKE getting jabbed with a needle? You're not supposed to LIKE getting vaccinated, you're supposed to do to avoid the risk of not doing it. And being "logic'ed" into doing something to avoid some risk is one of the basic things that we use logic for. If that wouldn't work on you, then I can only presume you don't care about logic at all, and you make all your decisions purely based on emotional appeal, which would be concerning, to say the least. 15:40, 27 July 2023 (UTC) B
Indeed, however, you are arguing with a boogeyman in your head, in reality, the whole conversation has been flanderized to oblivion, where someone is either 'one of us' or 'one of them'. Being hesitant of a new biotechnological advancement is not being a nutjob, it's being cautious, and people who know the history of science, kind of have good reason to be cautious about the newest panacea. Remember people eating radioactive candy because it was 'reinvigorating'? How about people using lead in gasoline? How long did it take us to prove that lead in gasoline was bad? How long did thalidomide take? How long did asbestos take? Did the Romans ever figure out that their plumbing was making them stupid and die? Technology is not always good. And it definitely is no good without being aware that there are always unintended effects to progress. Scienceizkool (talk) 02:12, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
People who know the history of science, know that we've learnt from every mistake that's been made in the past, we've learnt so much about safe and effective medical practices, and we've learnt so much more about reality itself, and they know that science is the most reliable method to gain knowledge about reality. People who know nothing about the history of science, or those who are engaging in the most egregious of cherry-picking, would imply something like "the Romans were not very bright, therefore we can't trust any science", as you just did. Once you move past the "science = bad" silliness and you begin to understand how we conclude that medicine is safe and effective, your entire argument falls apart. 13:53, 28 July 2023 (UTC) B
People who know history know that the only thing we can learn from history is that we don't learn from history. Also, I didn't imply what you understood, I merely gave you one of many examples where society-wide technological advancements had a hidden cost that was only understood many years later. Science is not bat at all, it is a method, and that method must be open to criticism, even criticism no one wants to hear. Scienceizkool (talk) 17:20, 28 July 2023 (UTC)

If you dislike apples because someone else told you to like apples, then you’re a contrarian idiot. If you had an apple and didn’t like it then you’re disliking apples for a logical reason. Similarly, if you refuse to get a vaccine because someone else told you to get a vaccine then you’re Ali a contrarian idiot. The vaccine equivalent to “having the Apple” to determine that you don’t like it would be actually running tests of your own to determine efficacy and safety of the vaccine. Since you can’t run a large scale vaccine test at home your only option is to rely on the information provided by the experts. Don’t trust the experts? Then why do you trust the fake internet experts?

I disagree with your association of contrarianism with idiocy. Moderate contrarianism is a valuable personality trait that prevents communities from degenerating into monolithic oppressive echo chambers, and opposing an irritatingly widespread idea is not the same as doing things to spite some random guy. As for anti-vaccination, it's more of a lifestyle preference than a product preference. Am I in grave danger if I take the vaccine? Probably not. Am I in grave danger if I refuse it? Probably not. Rationally, I even agree that vaccination is most likely the healthier option, but the difference doesn't seem significant enough. So I prefer to indulge in contrarianism. It is against my personal preferences to be manipulated by powerful organizations and their numerous supporters into obediently taking some experimental substance, repeatedly, at regular intervals. But again, it's not a fear of adverse side effects, it's an aversion to anything force-fed, not distrust in the sense of "I don't trust the quality of your product", but in the sense of "I don't trust you to tell me what to do". And of course, I don't trust the "fake internet experts" either, I don't even read them on purpose. 09:31, 27 July 2023 (UTC)
While contrarianism IS valuable, it's not a reason to do things. If (as you say) getting and not getting the vaccine are equal situations for you medically, but getting it is socially encouraged, then the only reason you have to NOT get it is to be contrarian, as you say. It's contrarian, but it brings no benefit to you. Being contrarian AGAINST logic is the issue. If the vaccine was more medically dubious than beneficial but still had the social gain, then yeah, contrarianism has benefits because there are costs to weigh. But if being contrarian only provides downsides, it's illogical and you're just making something simple complicated. --Magicalus (talk) 12:35, 27 July 2023 (UTC)
It's illogical only in the assumption that:
1) Human beings are model rational agents maximizing a precisely defined real-valued utility function
2) Maintaining health is the ultimate goal and meaning of life
3) There are no unknown unknowns
If one feels being manipulated and the health risk is not too high, one can choose the seemingly less healthy option. It might even turn out to be more healthy because of some unknown unknowns not taken into account in the rational assessment of the vaccine's utility. Might not. 16:19, 27 July 2023 (UTC)
So the logic is "There could be an unknown downside, so it's better not to risk it." If we're just going to claim unknowns, we can't assume all unknowns are negative. Who knows, maybe it turns out 0.01% of the people who get the vaccine get superpowers. That line of thinking is just an endless pit because there are infinite arguments on both sides. So out of the remaining arguments, let's talk about the second one. The idea isn't that maintaining health is the ultimate goal, it's that maintaining health is a positive thing to do and the vaccine in this regard is, for the sake of argument, neutral. The first argument doesn't make sense. You're eitehr implying that humans act illogically anyways, so it IS an illogical action, or that "social credit" is determined by illogical humans who don't always make the right choices. So this is illogical if humans make logical decisions, health is a beneficial trait, and the vaccine doesn't give people superpowers and doesn't turn them into rats. Being contrarian here only serves as a detriment unless what is essentially random chance works in your favor and not against. --Magicalus (talk) 01:47, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
Skepticism is a valuable personality trait (that prevents communities from degenerating into monolithic oppressive echo chambers). Contrarianism, on the other hand, may sometimes have the same effect, while at other times could lead to people literally dying, just for the sake you being able to disagree with something. Being contrarian seems, at most, like a useful thought exercise to get a different perspective (which is essentially a part of skepticism in any case). Letting contrarianism be a driving factor in significant life decisions seems like a terrible idea. 15:40, 27 July 2023 (UTC) B
Can't skepticism lead to people literally dying, just for the sake you being able to doubt something? Can't conformism lead to people literally dying? Any -ism, taken to the absolute, is a terrible idea in significant life decisions. 16:19, 27 July 2023 (UTC)

It seems to me like the very term "anti-vaxxer" has become a misleading slur applied to anyone who opposes certain policies, regardless of reason. I think vaccines are great; I got my (multiple) COVID shots, flu shot every year, etc.. But apparently I'm an "anti-vaxxer" because I oppose vaccine MANDATES. I would rather respect other people's personally autonomy, letting them make their choice about their body, rather than force people to undergo medical procedures against their will, even if I think their reasons are stupid. 17:06, 27 July 2023 (UTC)

Think carefully. Some people want the vaccine, but can't get it for now or have other facts preventing them, and antivaxxers will expose these yet-un-immunized folks to COVID, which is a gross violation of the personal liberty of not having COVID-19. If you actually did take all those shots and aren't lying in order to make yourself seem better, then you'd know that.
Everyone likes personal autonomy, but nobody considers the fact that a person's personal autonomy is invalid when it endangers others... and that's exactly what anti-vaxxers do. They're not just affecting themselves, they're hurting others - as we've seen in places where nobody vaccinates against polio and it makes a sharp uptick. In that light, a vaccine mandate is the best available option. Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 13:11, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
After thinking carefully, I've come to the conclusion that you just want to A) call me a liar with no evidence or reason, and B) redefine personal liberty to mean the exact opposite. It's not going to be productive for me to try to have any kind of rational discussion with you. 01:48, 30 July 2023 (UTC)
Can you clarify? The person you are responding to is simply saying that you shouldn't use personal autonomy as an excuse when you are actively harming other people. Main problem though, is the person's equivalence of your rather balanced opinion with the opinions of the radical anti-vaxxers that spit out nonsense about 5G contamination and microchip scandals. 84596Gamma (talk) 02:34, 30 July 2023 (UTC)

This comic reads like it's almost self aware. "Things are never that simple" "That never happens". Indeed Randall. And this is no exception. For all the good any treatment may or may not do, it is ethically imperative to always acquire informed consent from the subjects. Informed consent was not acquired because the risks were not fully understood at the time. Most people were not made aware of this fact, and were misled into thinking that this was a tried and tested treatment. Long term side effects cannot be found at "warp speed" they are by definition, long term. Science is meant to be critical, and there is no way we can be critical of a treatment that we gave to up to 60% of the population in two years. Remember to take care of your biases. If you gave your product to more than 60% of the world population, would you want to find out that it wasn't great? Would you want to find out it might have not been a good idea? No. Conflict of interest. Scienceizkool (talk) 01:56, 28 July 2023 (UTC)

While the world isn't simple all of the time, it also stands that some situations are less complex than others - and this one was particularly simple.
You say "may or may not do" as if you live in 2020 and this is still some sort of hypothetical. This is not hypothetical: during the first year, the vaccines already saved 20 million lives. Immunizing people to COVID works.

Your next statement is about informed consent, and the first thing you cast doubt on is the idea that the vaccines were tried and tested, but.. .they were. There were 110 possible candidates in clinical development at one point - what do you think they did to narrow it down to a few? Eeny miney moe? Rock paper scissors? There was no misleading because it's just true that the final candidates were tried and tested, and we did it faster because of (among other things) much higher funding, usage of mRNA tech built by people such as Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissmann, as well as overlapping trial phases and an appreciable head-start given that we'd done a lot of work on vaccination of coronaviruses already (since 2002 in fact).
"Long term side effects" in the field of vaccines are really rare. Even severe side effects at any length of time are rare for any vaccinations, but they show up within the first few weeks a great majority of the time - this is expected, because vaccines are only taken at one moment, and the body will eliminate the payload in a matter of months. Therefore, panicking about long term side effects is irrelevant here - COVID-19 has far more likelihood to affect you long-term anyway.
There is a way we can be critical of a treatment given to a vast amount of people: look at what it did. And what it did was reduce disease, hospitalization and death incident multiple-fold!
"If you gave your product to more than 60% of the world population, would you want to find out that it wasn't great?" There is no need to answer hypotheticals that didn't happen when I can simply say that if my product was given to 60% of the world population, reduced disease 8-fold, hospitalization 25-fold and death 25-fold, I'd be ecstatic that I was a great contributor to the solution of the pandemic and made a few billions on the side! Because that's what happened. Andrewtheexplainer (talk) 13:47, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
So how many million more deaths would've been acceptable in your opinion, in order for us to meet whatever criteria for medical treatment, across however many decades or centuries, that exists in your head? Also, for how many years have you been a virologist (or a biologist, or some other scientist that researches medical treatments)? I'm guess ZERO, because almost all scientists agree that the vaccine went through sufficient testing, on par with other new treatments, and it's mostly laypeople who know nothing about medical testing that are complaining about the medical testing. Also, we haven't seen any of these long-term side effects you speak of, so is your position that people weren't warned about ... nothing? Thinking that people were "misled" can only really be described as a delusion. The testing it went through is fairly well-publicised, for anyone who cares to look it up (even before anti-vaxxers started anti-vaxxing about it). 13:53, 28 July 2023 (UTC) B

Here is some real science that casts doubt on how good an idea this whole program was. I will cite one of a lot of articles 'Compelling evidence has been published to indicate that the spike protein, which is derived from SARS-CoV-2 and generated from the vaccines currently being employed, is not only able to cross the blood–brain barrier but may cause inflammation and/or blood clots in the brain. Consequently, should vaccine-induced expression of spike proteins not be limited to the site of injection and draining lymph nodes there is the potential of long-term implications following inoculation that may be identical to that of patients exhibiting neurological complications after being infected with SARS-CoV-2.' spike is not the best idea. Here is another one that compounds nicely to that hypothesis in bold, there is evidence that vaccine induced spike does not stay at the injection site, I cite: 'We found that vaccine-associated synthetic mRNA persists in systemic circulation for at least 2 weeks.' mrna circulates in blood after shot. Look, you can laugh at me and that's ok. Here's some more science for yall's enjoyment. Could SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Be Responsible for Long-COVID Syndrome?, SARS-CoV-2 spike protein S1 induces fibrin(ogen) resistant to fibrinolysis: implications for microclot formation in COVID-19, Sars-Cov-2 Spike Protein-Induced Damage of hiPSC-Derived Cardiomyocytes. Now, my point is this: there is good reason to doubt the covid vaccine, and a measured conversation recognizes the risks, instead of downplaying them, or straight up denying their existence. It also does not involve insulting the nonbelievers. That is the most sad and ironic part of all this. Science does not trust, it verifies. Cheers fellow science enthusiasts. I look forward to you all citing scientific papers supporting the hypothesis that covid vaccines are safe and effective. Scienceizkool (talk) 17:10, 28 July 2023 (UTC)
I'm not too inclined to dig through a bunch of studies (and also other studies, and responses, and breakdowns, and such) to see what's up. But also, it's kind of a "boy who cried wolf" situation. Anti-vax has made so many patently absurd claims, misrepresentations and blatant lies, that I'm not too inclined to put much weight into any further claims, nor evaluate them in much detail. And no, that's not an ad hominem fallacy: I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong, I'm just saying I don't have a good reason to think you may be right, and I have better things to spend my time on. I'm happy enough to let scientists investigate those claims, and update their consensus and public statements, along with medical treatments, appropriately (because, even if granting you that it's the worst possible case, which it most likely isn't and doesn't seem to be, none of what you cited demonstrates that vaccines were the wrong decision, given what we knew at the time, nor that anti-vax was justified - the essence of science is to learn new things, and update our beliefs appropriately, not to believe unjustified things because we may one day learn new information which justifies it). Also, the claim was never that vaccines carry ZERO risk, which seems to be all that all your links can "debunk", from a cursory glance. All medicine carries some risk, the question is whether the risk of the vaccine is worse than the risk of the disease, which I don't see addressed there, and which still seems highly doubtful, given how many confirmed deaths we have from Covid. 19:05, 28 July 2023 (UTC) B
Hey B. Thanks for sharing your concerns. I understand your hesitation to "antivax" ideas, however, I hope you can see that we always need to carefully examine the effects of any treatment for prolonged periods of time to establish their safety profile. We need access to the data so anyone can cross verify hypotheses, and we need to keep an open mind. Frankly, I have always hoped in my heart that covid vaccines are 100% safe, that is because I love so many people who have chosen to take this treatment. However, there is evidence (for example see the studies cited in my comment above) that this is not the case. Finding information about what is going on with the people who were harmed can help pave the way for how to help them heal. These are real people, marginal or not, tiny percentage or not, I want to find information that might to help them.
Regarding to whether the vaccine is worse than covid or not, consider that encoding an antigen into the vaccine (the spike protein) means that we need to study the safety profile of the antigen. As it turns out, the spike protein itself is pathogenic (see references in above comment), meaning that covid harms the body (in part) because of this specific protein. Some vaccines have a modified version of the protein that is meant to inactivate its capability to interface with ACE2 receptors. There remain some open questions. Mainly, we need to establish the safety profile of the modified S-protein encoded in those vaccines. There is reason for concern, as there is evidence that normal S-protein, as well as the S1 subunit can can disrupt and cross the blood brain barrier, induce inflammation, induce clotting, and induce the formation of lewy bodies in the brain. This is really bad news for anyone who has had covid in their brain. It is also cause for us to pause and consider the safety of the current generation vaccines, for which there is evidence that some of them can result in detectable levels of spike and S1 in plasma here. I put forth these questions:
Should we really be injecting people with the template for S-protein, modified or not?
How do the modifications to the mRNA made in some vaccines change the resulting behavior of the protein? Does it become less pathogenic? Which effects are lessened?
Can we find a more innocuous protein of the virus to choose as an antigen?
Could we find a protein that is part of the virus and could work as an antigen but that mutates less readily?
This is how I see things, not necessarily close to right. I hope I'm entirely wrong, and so, I keep looking for studies proving me wrong. Once again, thank you fellow science enthusiasts, and I look forward to your help in finding studies that support the safety of these products.. What does this have to do with the comic? Well.... this is not simple. At all. Cueball is in denial.Scienceizkool (talk) 19:30, 1 August 2023 (UTC)
Should we really be injecting people with the template for S-protein, modified or not?
If it's better for public health than not, then yes.
How do the modifications to the mRNA made in some vaccines change the resulting behavior of the protein? Does it become less pathogenic? Which effects are lessened?
Is it more pathogenic than Covid? Probably not.
Can we find a more innocuous protein of the virus to choose as an antigen?
There are always possible improvements. But, if it were up to some people, nothing would be tested because everything potentially has a remote chance of a problem. How about use the tools we have, seek to assess and improve those tools (a rubber hammer still works as a hammer, and can likely do a better job than no hammer at all when we really need to drive some nails in). Science doesn't stand still, fortunately.
Could we find a protein that is part of the virus and could work as an antigen but that mutates less readily?
Possibly. Of course it may ideally have to be a surface protein like the above protein in order to have the immune system learn enough to vaguely recognise Covid before it gets into cells, replicates (damages/kills the cells, is multiplied) and probably exposes the body to even more S-proteins from the whole process of viral shell dissassembly (from its own shedding process or following the T-cell battles that result) that are at least as bad for the body as any vaccine-invoked fragments.
...it's a balance, of course. But not one easily weighted towards rejecting the vaccines (which come in many forms, perhaps you can accept one that you don't have an overly irrational hatred of?) while there remains the risk of catching (and passing on) a version of the real virus from someone who doesn't even wear a white coat, wield an obvious syringe and happily present you with the latest risk/ingredient paperwork for what you're going to involuntarily get.
Keep an open mind about the latest medical advice, but don't have it so open that you get total garbage flydumped into your head. 00:44, 2 August 2023 (UTC)
The question of whether or not the modified S protein used in some vaccines is more pathogenic than COVID really should take into account multiple exposures to the antigen. This also opens the can of worms that while related to vaccines, affects virtually everyone on earth, and that is the pathogenicity of the spike protein. This is something that we should definitely focus on, especially to help those with "long covid" but also the people who get acute covid and those who have adverse reactions to the inoculations.
Finally my friend, I hope you can understand, I don't have hatred of anything, and at this moment, I think it's clear that there are very rational concerns related to the genetic vaccines. You can and people often do catch covid even after vaccinating (and the protection wanes significantly after some months) so this is not an 'altruistic' move, but rather one of personal choice and responsibility. Cheers. You make your own choices, and you live with them, so try to find and process information on your own, because you will be responsible on your own. Love. Scienceizkool (talk) 06:13, 4 August 2023 (UTC)
"...multiple exposures to the antigen..."... Inevitable if people passively allow/encourage the virus to become endemic. Cats/bags and horses/stable-doors, maybe, but needn't be that way. And can be made less significant if people are, or become, sensible about it. Not sure how much hope there is for that, reading the above exchanges. 09:09, 4 August 2023 (UTC)

I find it really insulting to be lumped in with antivaxxers. I'm not an antivaxxer. I love vaccines. The covid jab is not a vaccine, it's a scam. 00:17, 3 August 2023 (UTC)

I'm reticent to ask you to elucidate, as I predict that you're trapped down one or other particular pernicious and unfounded rabbit-hole from which there is no easy rescue. But you clearly have a good... ...definite idea of what this scam is, yet are leaving us hanging there as to exactly what it is that you mean. (In leiu of any reasonable clarification, don't be surprised if we ignore you. This response may just be a badly thought-out courtesy reply to let you know about that.) 07:08, 3 August 2023 (UTC)
Then you need a reality check, and to grow a thicker skin, because this is the path YOU have chosen. Nobody made you mistake it for a scam, nobody made you leave yourself vulnerable and betray mankind (presuming you haven't been vaccinated). Being against only one vaccine doesn't stop you from being an anti-vaxxer, sorry. You're still against science just because you don't understand it. Don't like being lumped in under that term, stop being against it, simple. I mean, I could see not wanting to lump in the Covid vaccine under the label of "vaccines", seeing as it's the most advanced, innovative, impressive vaccine we've ever seen, that it's a bit minimizing to just call it a vaccine, but that's obviously not a reason to be AGAINST it. Just because you don't understand it doesn't make it a scam. Do you realize they've never come up with a vaccine for colds or flus (not a true one, anyway), or why? Do you realize the Covid vaccine is a humongous step towards that? It's because colds, flus, and Covid (as a variant of them) are thousands of viruses, not one like the other things we have vaccines for. The usual flu vaccine is rather a vaccine against the specific strains they predict will be prevalent that season. It would be like if they came out with a Omicron Vaccine - stop THAT variant and no other. Since viruses mutate (I think particularly Covid), that would quickly become useless. THIS vaccine protects against the whole Covid family, it's a much more general protection, with the drawback that it can't fully STOP it, it makes the virus less effective and less likely to pass on. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:45, 12 August 2023 (UTC)
care to share any study on how effective your panacea is? ANY will do. Bow down before the one you serve... Scienceizkool (talk) 15:37, 15 August 2023 (UTC)

"Replacing offensive language" ...can only speak for myself, but I found it funny. And you can't take seriously anything put in the Incomplete tags, I just took it as knowing sarcasm. If anything, that people strongly disagree is true, but I don't care for them and that type of person has nothing useful to add here anyway. 10:02, 4 August 2023 (UTC)

Oh jeez, bugs me when people are THAT hypersensitive, LOL! I feel it just contributes to nobody in the current generation having thick skin anymore (particularly as, like you say, these comments are never taken seriously). If I wasn't sure it's gone by now I'd have to go change it back, :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:45, 12 August 2023 (UTC)

Alternative Explanation: Misinformation

The current "Explanation" interprets the comic literally and at face value when the comic is deliberately equivocal. This fails to take into consideration either Randall's inclination towards irony or his concern for wider social issues. Here is what I consider to be a more accurate interpretation, together with a detailed analysis, that addresses both of these issues. I look forward to your comments.
The stylistic techniques used in this comic are sufficiently advanced that I decided they warranted a separate explanation. This explanation I have omitted for now but would be happy to share if there is sufficient interest.

     This comic can be interpreted as Randall appealing to society to take a little more time to rationally consider all information instead of repeatedly being emotionally manipulated by it. The appeal is in response to both misinformation and disinformation that came to light as a result of the many pandemic-related issues.
     The dialogue of the comic emotionally goads the reader into hastily casting judgement on a narrative they think they're seeing so setting the reader up to be their own demonstration of how easy it is be a victim of either misinformation or disinformation. Given that the comic is an appeal to society to consider information more rationally, the comic can be considered to be deliberately ironic.
     The pejorative "Anti-vaxxer" refers to either any individual questioning the COVID-19 vaccination or any individual who has refused a COVID-19 vaccination. However, this pejorative obscures two arguments that such individuals typically make: (1) that everbody should be entitled to comprehensive and accurate information regarding the content and efficacy of any vaccine being developed, and (2) based on that information, everyone should have the freedom to choose whether to have a vaccination or not.
     Box #1's dialogue, "I TRY TO MEET PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE, BUT I HAVE SUCH A HARD TIME WITH ANTI-VAXXERS.", deliberately suggests that Randall has tried, unsuccessfully, to reconcile his own principles with those of the "Anti-vaxxer"s. However, even though both the comic's title text and previous XKCD comics may be interpreted as Randall advocating for vaccination, there is no emperical evidence to support that Randall has explicitly disagreed with either of the "Anti-vaxxer"s' aforementioned arguments. Box #1 instead expresses an ideological dilemma. On the one hand, Randall believes everybody should be vaccinated for COVID-19. On the other hand, he believes in the notion of personal freedom. He realises, however, that any attempt to legislatively enforce the former encroaches on the latter. Box #2 refers to an unknown number of "DILEMMAS" the pandemic brought with it and this can be considered to be one such dilemma.
     Society observed during the pandemic that fake or inaccurate information was able to manipulate how society perceived important issues. This resulted in two words being introduced into the common vernacular: "misinformation" and "disinformation". Randall was already aware that both of these phenomena existed well before the pandemic through his long-standing interest in the perpetual cycle of both fake and inaccurate information in society. However, the wide range of pandemic-related issues caused the uncovering of both misinformation and disinformation on a scale that even Randall had previously been unaware. He observed "AMBIGUOUS DATA" (from corporations and governments), "WEIRD TRADEOFFS" (both internally within governments and between governments and corporations), and "DISAGREEMENTS" (within both government and wider society with regard to pandemic-related policy), and increased "UNCERTAINTY" overall.
     The wide range of pandemic-related issues also caused Randall to observe that a major crisis can be effective at coalescing public opinion which can force decisive action on key social issues. Compared to the complex machinations of government where political ambitions often obstruct decisive action, Randall realised that a crisis is simplicity itself for getting action when it is required, and this is reflected in "...ALSO TURNED OUT TO BE ONE OF THE EASIEST AND SIMPLEST.". It is from this standpoint that Randall sees the perpetual lack of decisive action on a range of social issues, from stamping out disinformation to deciding global vaccination policy, as society's "SUFFERING" and he sees the pandemic itself as an "INTERVENTION" that reduced that suffering as the crisis either forced awareness of the issues or forced action with respect to them.
     This, however, presents Randall with a new dilemma which can also be considered to be one of the pandemic-related "DILEMMAS" referred to in box #2. He in no way wishes the social upheaval and physical suffering caused by major crises, and yet he observes that, due to decisive action on social issues that may be brought about, there are rare occasions where major crises result in a net overall improvement in the way society functions. It is the rarity of these "beneficial crises", of which Randall considers the COVID-19 pandemic to be one, that is expressed by the phrase "THAT NEVER HAPPENS". However, the fact that the pandemic did happen, and the exact timing of it, appears to have forced positive action on one or more (possibly unstated) issues important to Randall himself, and it is from this standpoint that the pandemic, to him at least, "JUST FEELS LIKE A MIRACLE".
     Overall, though, Randall is frustrated at this new dilemma and continues "I HATE THAT PEOPLE ARE WORKING SO HARD TO MAKE IT COMPLICATED WHEN IT'S ONE OF THE FEW THINGS IN THIS WORLD THAT ISN'T". He appears to be angry that government misinformation and corporate disinformation are complicating issues for society as a whole so hindering people from making informed choices regarding those issues and effecting decisive action. Randall believes that if society took a little more time to rationally consider information placed before it then it may be able to avoid emotional manipulation and see past the misinformation, enabling decisive action to be taken sooner rather than having to wait an indeterminate period for the next major crisis to come along and force action to be taken.
     Finally, the comic's title text, though sarcastic, is a challenge to the "Anti-vaxxer"s. Randall claims that, even given the culture of misinformation uncovered during the pandemic, the scientific data regarding vaccine efficacy is reliable enough to withstand close scrutiny. He is challenging the "Anti-vaxxer"s to excerise their Freedom to Choose based on this data, positing that their initial argument for being entitled to accurate information regarding vaccines has been addressed. 05:32, 19 August 2023 (UTC)

Cueball says 'people are working so hard to make it complicated when it's one of the few things in this world that isn't'. Given the length and fractiousness of this comments section, I think they may have a point. 15:32, 6 November 2023 (UTC)

Excess deaths are up, cancers are up, dementia is up, strokes are up. There must be a simple explanation for this all... if only there were one. Oh well. Guess science can't explain everything after all. I used to get mad at fanatics, but now I just feel sad, because the denial is rock solid. Scienceizkool (talk) 03:32, 9 April 2024 (UTC)

Your point is ambiguous. Despite your username, hard to tell if you're using sarcasm or not. Poe's law seems to apply. But, to extend/counter your point (whichever), we can say:
  • Excess deaths are a comparison of the expected trend, from thenimmediate lead-up of historic data, against what is then seen. Higher excess deaths could mean reversion to the mean after doing well on death-prevention before. Give or take whether you account for all those that previously didn't die who are now older and thus closer to dying from something else, which a good Excess Deaths estimation might need to account for (slice it up be age demographics, obviously a 20yo who fortunately didn't die at 18 isn't likely to die of old age by 22).
  • Dementia and strokes are the kinds of thing you die of when you "haven't died of anything else", so if you're saving people from dying of cholera, car-crashes, rampaging cattle stampedes or suicide (through healthcare, seatbelts, farm safety and treating depression) then people will get old and succumb to more geriatric condictions.
...so, yes, science can explain things. The fine detail can be argued about, but you can always check how much good data you have in order to give confidence to the minutiae, but population-wide statistics across stretches of time tend to be fairly reliable as far as such conclusions. 10:53, 9 April 2024 (UTC)
Get boosted Scienceizkool (talk) 20:05, 12 April 2024 (UTC)