I notice that people are wondering lately if the Amish are going to vaccinate for COVID-19. A recent study showed that 75% of Amish in one large community would reject the COVID vaccine. So you see why it is a concern for the people paid to worry about these things.
Image: David Arment
Here’s one report from CBS21 on how that is playing out in Pennsylvania, home to the largest Amish population, and a large plain Mennonite population as well:
Outreach efforts are going under the microscope as our region prepares to mass vaccinate.
The Department of Health says they are working with health systems in Plain Communities to “assist in providing information about the COVID-19 vaccine”, systems like Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.
“We have identified key partners in the Plain Community, in the healthcare community or just some other relationship with the Amish so we can get it to them and then they can disseminate to their community within their circle of influence,” said Alice Yoder, the Executive Director of Community Health, Penn Medicine LGH.
How else is information being spread?
“We’ve identified some publications that they read on a regular basis so we’ve started to put things in those publications about the vaccine, about its safety and the benefits of it as well,” said Yoder.
Ultimately the task is to meet them where they live and plans are in place to do that with the vaccine.
“We’re looking at ways, asking the community what they want, we’ve had vaccination clinics for the flu at firehalls so we may have pop-up clinics in rural areas of our community,” said Yoder.
The Governor’s Legislative COVID Vaccine Task Force is aware of some of the challenges and is working on remedies.
It sounds like they are working hard to figure this out. But is it going to work?
Will this work?
I think a big part of this – like with any vaccination effort – is whether the community feels there is a real need to be vaccinated. And it may be that Amish in this settlement or that believe they have already been ill with COVID in significant numbers. That’s what I’ve been hearing is the case in some of the largest settlements.
After all, this is not a short-term time frame event we are talking about. The pandemic has been running for a year now, many people have gotten ill from something in the course of a year (be it COVID, flu, cold or something else), and it’s natural to suppose – or want to suppose – that you’ve already had it, especially if people you know have had it (or something that sounds like it), and after all you did have that nasty bug for a few days last autumn which sounded a lot like COVID…
If so, it’s going to be a harder sell to convince Amish to get COVID vaccinations. Why would you vaccinate if you think you’ve already had COVID, and thus have antibodies?
So this factor in particular might make getting widespread immunizations for COVID more difficult than it has been in recent cases of shorter-term, less nebulous outbreaks of diseases in Amish areas – such as Hepatitis A (Highland County, OH, 2019), whooping cough (Webster County, MO, 2017) and measles (greater Holmes County, OH, 2014).
In at least two of those instances, large numbers of Amish lined up to be vaccinated. But I believe the threat in those cases was more clearly understood, there was minimal conspiracy theorizing around the issues, and there was likely little gray-area speculation as to whether someone might have already been infected with the given disease and thus protected via antibodies.
That is only one of the roadblocks I see, but it is a significant one. If you’re wondering what objections Amish have to vaccination in general, this video explains that: