Pennsylvania Amishman John Stoltzfus has kindly agreed to answer some reader questions about the Amish.
Of course “the Amish” includes different groups with different practices.
With that in mind, John writes that “my views will not be the only view from our people, because of the vast geographic area of our communities, and because each community or settlement has its own Ordnung. I will try to answer the questions with a general approach.”
The first question was asked by reader Shannon:
Do Amish get routine medical visits and vaccines like everyone else?
Routine medical visits vary from family to family. The term “medical visits” could also include visits to a chiropractor or another natural health practitioner.
Most of the child births in the plain communities are taken care of by mid-wives, and doctors and midwives just do check ups till the child is maybe a year old, most possibly less.
General consensus is: someone with a chronic disease will have regular check ups, however if there is nothing wrong, we don’t go to the doctor to have him search for an ailment. There is a very popular book in our communities–Be Your Own Doctor by Rachel Weaver–and if there is something wrong that is the first place to check before calling the ambulance. Another popular book that will give you insight about medical experiences in the plain community is House Calls and Hitching Posts.
I know that in the 1970s and 80s most of the plain communities in this area received vaccines; however that has changed over the last decade or so. There is a much higher percentage of the Amish population now that doesn’t allow their children vaccine shots, than 30 years ago.
My feeling on the parents’ decision to not have their children get the shots, is that it isn’t a Biblical reason, it is a medical reason. Apparently there are some natural practitioners that have spoken out about the side effects of the child getting the vaccine. I had all my shots, however my wife didn’t and in 1988 she had the measles while she was pregnant and our daughter did have ear-related issues as a child that we feel came from my wife having measles. After our experience, we made sure that all of our children have had the shots, and we are vocal advocates about the side effects of not getting the shots.
I personally feel it is a big mistake not having your children’s shots up to date. As fewer parents allow the child to be vaccinated, the non-vaccinated population is growing, which could create a huge disease breakout later. There is enough historical evidence that the vaccines have almost eliminated the worst diseases.
Our Church doesn’t have rules or stipulations on what to do or not to do when it comes to a medical decision, so it is all about individual decisions.
John Stoltzfus is a father of five and member of a Pennsylvania Old Order Amish community. John works in product design for a local farm supply company. In his spare time he creates computer-generated art, which you can view here.