The formulation of anti-vaccination mandate views in social work
Keywords:Covid-19, risk, populism, public health, social work, dissent, knowledge
INTRODUCTION: A feature of the Covid-19 pandemic in Aotearoa New Zealand was the introduction of mass vaccination and vaccine mandates as public health measures to minimise serious illness and deaths. These measures were generally popular, with wide support, and 90% uptake of vaccines across the eligible population. A minority, however, objected strenuously to both mass vaccination and mandates. In a stressful period, this opposition and the unrest generated significant conflict. Social work was not immune to this conflict.
Approach: This commentary explores the nature of dissent in social work about vaccines in Aotearoa New Zealand after August 2021, drawing on theoretical explanations of vaccine hesitancy and refusal. Social theory is helpful in unpacking arguments for and against public health initiatives.
Conclusions: Opposition to vaccine mandates has been framed as legitimate dissent where freedom and rights are largely conceptualised within a lens of neoliberal individualism. Social work values heavily weigh in on the side of a collectivist public health approach and this does not negate human rights.
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