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Health, Science & Tech

Health Care Providers Push Vaccination Efforts In Pennsylvania’s Amish And Mennonite Communities

Pennsylvania health care providers are adjusting their vaccine outreach strategies to target those living in more rural parts of the state, including Amish and conservative Mennonite communities.
Erika Beras
/
90.5 WESA
Pennsylvania health care providers are adjusting their vaccine outreach strategies to target those living in more rural parts of the state, including Amish and conservative Mennonite communities.

As the vaccination rollout continues, Pennsylvania health care providers are turning their attention to harder to reach populations, including Amish and conservative Mennonite communities living in more rural parts of the state.

Health officials do not track the religious affiliations of people who choose to get vaccinated, so it is unclear exactly how many Amish people have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Providers in Lancaster County, which is home to one of the largest Amish communities, worry that many may not be able to sign up for a vaccine appointment using a computer or cell phone. To that end, health care providers are adjusting their communication strategies and working with church groups to encourage people to get vaccinated.

“We, as a healthcare provider, have the vaccine, we have the ability to administer the vaccine,” said Alice Yoder, executive director of community health for Penn Medicine at Lancaster General Health. “But it’s the relationship that the faith-based communities have with their members and the community overall that gets the 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 that this outreach is vital.

“We’ve targeted materials to organizations and newspapers that the Amish particularly read so that we can get that message out,” she said.

“There are some, I’m sure, that read the Wall Street Journal. But that’s not by far the typical person in the Amish community. So, really using their networks and their vehicles is the best way to communicate the messaging that needs to get out there.”

Yoder said that while she remains concerned about lower vaccination rates among Amish and Mennonite people, she believes the community-based approach is the most effective way to reduce vaccine hesitancy and encourage people to get a vaccine.

“We need to be able to do as much as we can that’s within our control,” said Yoder. “And that would be putting out truthful information and the facts to the plain community, and also being available, reducing transportation issues, and having the vaccine available for those that are willing to get vaccinated.”