Holmes County, Ohio, one of the largest Amish communities in the world, has persistently low immunization rates. Studies of other Amish communities have revealed that parents do not immunize their children because of lack of access to immunizations. Our study explored reasons that Amish parents in the previously uninvestigated Holmes County population exempt themselves from immunizations.
In January 2007, questionnaires for assessing attitudes regarding immunizations were mailed to a random sampling of 1000 Amish parents in Holmes County.
Thirty-seven percent of the parents responded. Among the 359 respondents, 68% stated that all of their children had received at least 1 immunization, and 17% reported that some of their children had received at least 1 immunization. Only 14% of the parents reported that none of their children had received immunizations. Eighty-six percent of the parents who completely exempted their children from vaccines stated that the main reason they do not vaccinate their children is concern over adverse effects. Many parents indicated that they allow their children to receive only some vaccines because of concern about the way certain vaccines are produced.
The reasons that Amish parents resist immunizations mirror reasons that non-Amish parents resist immunizations. Even in America's closed religious communities, the major barrier to vaccination is concern over adverse effects of vaccinations. If 85% of Amish parents surveyed accept some immunizations, they are a dynamic group that may be influenced to accept preventative care. Underimmunization in the Amish population must be approached with emphasis on changing parental perceptions of vaccines in addition to ensuring access to vaccines.