Social Work Responds: A Vaccine Is Not a Cure

Jan 29, 2021


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January 29, 2021

About Social Work Responds

The Association of Social Work Boards, the Council on Social Work Education, and the National Association of Social Workers are committed to collaborating on the range of issues affecting the social work profession and the people and communities we serve.

Follow Up

Social workers and educators can submit proposals for CSWE’s 2021 Annual Program Meeting (APM) now! The theme of this year’s APM is Leading Critical Conversations: Racial, Economic, & Environmental Justice, and it is scheduled for November 4-7, in Orlando, Florida. Learn more today at

ASWB has issued a Request for Proposals for a literature review to examine the current research related to occupational and professional regulation, with an emphasis on social work regulatory best practices. Learn more and download the RFP.

NASW has provided guidance to the profession about access to the Covid-19 vaccine.

A Vaccine Is Not a Cure

Young woman getting vaccinatedWith the new COVID-19 vaccines, our country has a critical tool for fighting the global pandemic that has devastated many communities, especially those already in need of better access to quality health care. Social workers continue to be an essential workforce on the front lines in responding to the mental health, social care, and economic challenges associated with this crisis. And the Biden-Harris administration has in just one week taken numerous bold, executive actions on social policy issues that support social work professionals and lift up the people we serve.

However, a new administration and highly effective vaccines cannot address all the challenges facing our nation. We need healing on so many levels.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump for his role in inciting a white supremacist insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. It’s unclear whether the Senate will follow suit. Many more actions are needed to address the root causes of the divisions in our country that the riots seem to represent. Social work practitioners, educators, students, and regulators are needed to heal the divide.

We also play a role in vaccine deployment by addressing fears some may have about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.  We can aid community decision making based on facts, evidence, and science. Our own communications, whether on social media or in person, must be accurate, fair, and clear. The social work profession has made major contributions to our society’s understanding of racism and other public health issues. We must continue to draw on that expertise in responding to both pandemics.

For several months, NASW and its Chapters have delivered an important series of public town halls, timely professional education, targeted advocacy and numerous discussions with members across the political spectrum on race, inequity, violence, and ethics. Social workers from all fields of practice are communicating with one another in new ways and challenging the association to do more to advance anti-racist social work practice.  Both NASW’s Strategic Plan and Program Plan have been updated to reflect these new insights, and NASW is actively engaging a much broader cross-section of our vibrant profession in our planning and programming.  As a result, membership in NASW is growing again.

CSWE’s Anti-Racism Task Force was convened in July 2020 to identify ways in which CSWE and its member programs can/should be more explicitly anti-racist. The workgroup recommendations were shared with CSWE members at CSWE’s Annual Program Meeting on November 20. These recommendations are currently being reviewed in preparation for the development of action plans to enhance our educational policy and accreditation standards, conferences and faculty development, and explicit and implicit curriculum.

CSWE also continues to advocate for lower costs for higher education. Higher education simply must be more affordable. Cost is a barrier for too many college students, particularly those who are African American. Black students, according to CSWE research, reported $21,000 more debt in earning their MSW degree than their white counterparts. CSWE and NASW have called for Congress to extend the relief provided by the CARES Act by continuing both 0% interest-deferred repayments and the suspension of collection activities for borrowers with defaulted loans. People have lost their jobs as a result of the virus and need relief. CSWE continues to push for extending the post-graduation grace period for one year for students leaving school and set a 1.5% interest rate and 0% origination fee for student loans.

Unlike the education and practice pillars, where internal change and advocacy can be more immediate to address the tumultuous events and issues of 2020 (and 2021), the regulatory pillar does not move as quickly — intentionally so. The starting point for regulation is legislation. Before regulation can respond to current events, changes in legislation or executive orders must take place. Typically, the decision to change laws requires considerable discussion and thought to be inclusive of the perspectives of those whose lives may be affected, to ensure the changes are appropriate and do not result in unintended consequences.

When challenged by events in 2020, regulators responded to help social workers on two related fronts: staying connected to clients through electronic practice and increasing practice mobility so that social workers could use those electronic modalities across jurisdictional borders. State-imposed emergency orders put these issues at the top of the priority list, and regulatory boards adapted rules and administrative processes to enact those orders. The mandate of the regulatory boards continues to be ensuring safe practice for the citizens in each state. Through that lens, the boards will evaluate all emergency orders as they are set to expire. The lessons of 2020 and a focus on public protection will be central as regulatory boards determine what makes sense for extending deadlines or changing laws to make practice across state lines a future reality.

Last year showed us that we can pivot quickly and still work effectively to address major issues. Maybe in January 2022, we will look back and celebrate all the ways that social workers led the way in helping our nation overcome two pandemics.

How You Can Help

CSWE submitted policy principles to the Biden-Harris administration and 117th Congress that can ensure they advance social work and social work education. Read those policy principles on CSWE’s website.

NASW’s 2021 Blueprint of Federal Social Policy Priorities, was sent to Congress, the Biden Administration, major national coalitions and multiple other stakeholders this week.  Find the report and related resources on

Regulatory boards always need volunteers, whether to fill vacancies or to be considered for new appointments. If you’re interested in using your macro muscles in a new capacity, ASWB encourages you to volunteer to serve on your social work regulatory board or as a public member on another professional regulatory board.How You Can Help


Related Posts:

February 2: Time for New Outreach to Social Workers

October 29: We Want to Hear from You!

July 30: Reopening Ahead of a Fourth Wave

April 30: Suppressing Voter Suppression

February 26: Essential and Valued

December 1: Election 2020: Wins All Around!

October 16: How do you eat an elephant…?

October 9 – Creating an Inclusive Economy

September 25 – We ‘have a way to go’ to achieve racial equity in social work

September 11 – Social Work and School Reopening

August 24 – Each One Register One

August 7 – Ensuring All Levels of Self-Care

July 24 – Will the Pandemic Cause Mental Trauma?

July 10 – Interprofessional Health Care Model Responds to Both Pandemics

June 19 – This Is Who We Are

June 5 – Two Pandemics

May 15 – Let’s Call It What It Is…Telesocialwork

May 1 – What’s the Meaning of This?

April 24 – Social Worker COVID-19 Survey

April 17 – COVID-19 and Social Justice

April 10 – Reinforcing the Essential Nature of Social Work

April 3 – Balancing “Essential” with Safe and Ethical

March 27 – COVID-19 Telehealth: Providing Mental Health Support Safely, Ethically and Competently

March 20 – Social Work in this Unprecedented Time