Objectives: The Holmes County Amish have low vaccination rates, an increasingly diverse population, and have an increased incidence of certain inherited diseases. The objectives were to evaluate; the rate and influences of vaccine hesitancy compared to a decade ago, vaccination patterns between Amish affiliations, vaccine practices of Amish special needs children, and the Amish's acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Study design: In April of 2020, a survey assessing vaccination patterns and beliefs were mailed to 1000 Amish families, including ultra-conservative Amish sects and special needs families.
Results: 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. 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.
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.
Keywords: Anabaptist; COVID-19; Complex medical needs; Religion; Vaccine hesitancy.
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