As the immunization rollout continues, healthcare providers in Pennsylvania are turning to hard-to-reach populations, including conservative Amish and Mennonite communities living in more rural areas of the state.
Health officials do not follow the religious affiliations of people who choose to be vaccinated, so it is difficult to know exactly how many Amish people have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
Providers in Lancaster County, home to one of the largest Amish communities, fear that many may not be able to book an appointment for a vaccine using a computer or cell phone. To this end, health care providers are adjusting their communication strategies and working with religious groups to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“We as a health care provider have the vaccine, we have the ability to deliver the vaccine,” said Alice Yoder, executive director of community health for Penn Medicine at Lancaster General Health. “But it’s the relationship faith communities have with their members and the community at large that brings people to the pop-up clinic. “
Other efforts include buying ads in newspapers widely read by the Amish community. Yoder, speaking with WESA’s The Confluence, said this awareness is vital.
“We have targeted documents on organizations and newspapers that the Amish particularly read so that we can get this message out,” she said.
“There are some, I’m sure, who read the Wall Street Journal. But by far he is not the typical person of the Amish community. So really using their networks and vehicles is the best way to communicate the message that needs to get out. “
Yoder said that while she remains concerned about declining immunization rates among Amish and Mennonites, she believes the community approach is the most effective way to reduce vaccine hesitancy and encourage people to get vaccinated.
“We have to be able to do whatever we can under our control,” Yoder said. “And that would disseminate truthful information and facts to the mainstream community, and also be available, reduce transportation problems and have the vaccine available for those who are ready to be vaccinated.”