How Do I Know It’S Not Saline?

Lots of talk about folks who do not trust safety of vaccine and so might opt not to get inoculated. Some talk in connection with that about lack of trust in institutions, etc.

But what is perhaps more interesting is how many of us will get vaccinated and assume without direct evidence that it was real rather than a placebo or saline. If we manage to have no side effects we’ll think we are lucky or robust. But we must have a pretty strong faith in institutions, etc. if we are willing to go to some website we heard about on the radio, give them information, go to a stadium or drugstore and allow strangers in white coats to inject us with who knows what. They don’t show us any certificates of authenticity or the freezers and dry ice or the security tape they cut through to take out our dose. You get an email that says “Go to this Walgreens in some other city at such and such a time” and then you get there and “Calvin will inject you,” they’ll say, and we’ll roll up our sleeve. Who even is this Fizer guy? Do I know where that cute name moderna comes from?

And it’s not just follow the crowd: people compete to be at the front of the line.

Why do we believe any of this? Some because we are desperate TO believe, but almost none of us has seen direct evidence. But NPR said so. And our employer. And people who claim to be scientists say so. And it’s on TV. And our doctor said to get the shot. And the president is talking about it. And they mention CDC and Johns Hopkins and that BandAid company.

So, while there are some noisy doubters and there are some legitimately aggrieved skeptics, for the most part this social institution think is still running. I have no doubts that it is saline.

Author: Dan Ryan

I've been an Academic Program Director at, a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. My current mission is to figure out how to reorganize higher education and exploit technology so that we can teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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