Vaccine hesitancy’s roots in deeply religious and technophobic Amish community

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Credit: Alex Panetta/Canadian Press
Credit: Alex Panetta/Canadian Press

The vaccination drive is lagging far behind in many Amish communities across the U.S. following a wave of virus outbreaks that swept through their churches and homes during the past year. In Ohio’s Holmes County, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Amish, just 14% of the county’s overall population is fully vaccinated.

While their religious beliefs don’t forbid them to get vaccines, the Amish are generally less likely to be vaccinated for preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough. Though vaccine acceptance varies by church district, the Amish often rely on family tradition and advice from church leaders, and a core part of their Christian faith is accepting God’s will in times of illness or death.

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Because many Amish work and shop alongside their neighbors and hire them as drivers, they hear the skepticism, the worries about side effects and the misinformation surrounding the vaccine from the “English,” or non-Amish, world around them even though they shun most modern conveniences.

“They’re not getting that from the media. They’re not watching TV or reading it on the internet. They’re getting it from their English neighbors,” said Donald Kraybill, a leading expert on the Amish. “In many ways, they are simply reflecting rural America and the same attitudes.”

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