About the COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Initiative

woman wearing medical face mask and adhesive bandage giving a thumbs up

NASW, the NASW Foundation, and the Health Behavior Research and Training Institute (HBRT) at The University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work are partners in an initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to engage the nation’s more than 700,000 social workers in boosting COVID-19 vaccine confidence, uptake, and access, particularly among populations with low vaccination rates and higher vulnerability to severe forms of infection.

Vaccine confidence is a complex construct that involves a variety of personal factors such as religious beliefs, political beliefs, perceptions of the government, perceptions of science, individual and/or community experiences with health providers and/or systems, language and/or literacy, and/or immigration/refugee status. As is seen in public health initiatives generally, there are also systemic and logistical factors such as transportation, childcare, and misinformation/disinformation. With their distinctive “person in the environment” framework, social workers possess highly relevant expertise in helping facilitate informed vaccine decision making in this context.

The initiative will include a comprehensive education campaign for social workers on COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness, barriers to vaccination (e.g., misinformation/disinformation, logistical challenges, psychological, etc.), and the role of social workers in promoting vaccination. The initiative will also include trainings for social workers on facts and myths about the vaccines as well as training in Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and other evidence-based, culturally competent, public health- and social work-informed methods for helping clients to process health-related decisions.

Through reflective listening and other strategies, versus traditional advice-giving approaches, these methods support and honor the client’s capacity and right to make choices about their health, while centering science-based and accurate information.

HBRT will collaborate with Michigan State University to develop a smartphone mobile application for social workers which will provide readily accessible vaccine information, motivational interviewing strategies, screening questions and brief interventions, and effective vaccine messaging for real-time support. HBRT will also collaborate with NORC at the University of Chicago to assist in developing messaging and in evaluation efforts.

NASW’s 55 chapters and a number of specialty social work associations will also be engaged in the initiative.