A new study with COVID implications suggests that acceptance of vaccines by Amish in one of the largest communities (Holmes County) has plummeted in the past 10 years. It also finds that Amish would refuse COVID vaccination at a rate of almost 10-to-1. The key findings:

The response rate was 39%. Among 391 respondents, 59% did not vaccinate their children, compared to only 14% that refused all vaccinations reported by Wenger et al in the same community only a decade ago. The ultra-conservative Amish rejected vaccines more often. Amish special needs children were more likely to receive vaccines than healthy Amish children. 75% responded they would reject a COVID-19 vaccine.

A drop of 45% would appear to be dramatic. That also assumes the studies were more-or-less apples-to-apples (here’s the earlier study for reference). This latest study was sent to 1000 Amish households and relied on recipients returning the survey. It could be that those who felt most strongly against vaccination would be more motivated to fill out and return a survey.

I also don’t know how good a response rate of 39% is, but it actually feels rather high to me. I doubt you’d get even half that if asking a non-Amish population to return a health survey.

The most attention-getting number of course is 75% rejecting a COVID vaccine. Only 8% said they would accept it.

Influences

There are some interesting insights found in the study. What – and especially who – influences acceptance of vaccines? The authors identify several factors:

Fear of adverse effects was the most common reason to reject vaccines. Families that accepted vaccines were more likely to cite a healthcare worker as the primary influence to vaccinate. Wives were more likely to cite their spouse as the primary influence to vaccinate. Families that rejected vaccines were more likely to state their bishop was the most influential person on vaccination.

Health care workers, male spouses, and bishops carry weight here. In the study body they also note the influence of alternative medicine practitioners or “natural doctor” on those who would reject the COVID vaccine.

Conclusion & A Question

The study’s conclusion:

The Holmes County Amish have decreasing vaccine acceptance. Efforts to improve vaccination will require a targeted focus on the primary influences and beliefs of sub-populations within the Amish. Physician advocacy, peer mentorship, father-directed education, and close partnership with Church leadership will be needed to limit vaccine-preventable disease. The Amish may be at risk for low uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The study makes note that vaccine acceptance in the general population has also declined in the past decade.

Also of note – the study was carried out with the survey mailing happening in April 2020 – near the very beginning of the US COVID experience.

Have restrictions  – and possibly educational efforts – in the ensuing 9+ months caused some to become more open to a COVID vaccination?

Image credit: Anna Nolte

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