WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) strongly supports workplace requirements that employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested. NASW also urges all social workers to not only be fully vaccinated and receive boosters as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but to be leaders in increasing vaccination rates in their communities.
“As an essential health profession providing services in numerous settings, and as trusted messengers in our communities, social workers play a key role in advancing science-based efforts to fight COVID-19,” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “We have an ethical duty to not only comply with local public health requirements, but to help move the country beyond the pandemic, which has already claimed more than 808,000 lives since early 2020.”
Although vaccination rates are increasing, only 60 percent of Americans are fully immunized against COVID-19. Higher rates of immunization are imperative to curb and eliminate the spread of COVID-19, including the newly identified Omicron variant.
Unvaccinated people are placing not only themselves at risk but compromising public health and safety. This includes populations who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccines, such as children under age five. Additionally, people with mental health disorders and individuals who are socially marginalized or economically vulnerable — key populations served by social workers — are at substantially greater risk of getting infected, being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.
Vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, severe illness, hospitalizations and, most importantly, deaths. Compared to the vaccinated, the unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die if they contract the virus. A recent study shows that in the United States, vaccines are five times more effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization than a previous COVID-19 infection. Any risks associated with taking the vaccines are considerably less common and less serious than the consequences of contracting COVID-19, especially for certain groups that are at higher risk of severe illness. Immunization is a key tool in responding to this devastating virus.
The NASW Foundation and the University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work are partnering in a CDC-funded initiative, Connect to End COVID-19, to promote COVID-19 vaccine confidence and support vaccine decision making by social workers and their clients. The initiative includes training for social workers on motivational interviewing and other evidence-based models to facilitate effective client and family health decision making.
“Social workers bring valuable expertise in meeting clients wherever they are in their vaccination journey and supporting informed vaccine decision making by clients”, said CEO Angelo McClain. “NASW will continue to equip social workers to play this vital role in their communities and in society."