Claims on social media that the Amish population has not been affected by COVID-19 are false. Such claims have been used to suggest that vaccines are futile.
One graphic shared widely on Instagram and Facebook reads: "Remember the virus that wiped out the entire Amish community because they don’t vaccinate their children? Yeah, me neither.” Examples of the posts can be found (here , here , here and here).
“Vaccines are worthless. They have never worked its [sic] a control mechanism. A way to weed out the week [sic] DNA,” one individual commented. “Be more like them,” another added.
Similar posts were also shared widely in September 2020. Examples of those can be found here , here and here .
The Amish are a Christian sect of around 350,000 people (here), who live much as their ancestors did when they migrated to the United States from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Famously reclusive, they are known for eschewing cars and other modern technologies.
There is also very little data on COVID-19 in Amish communities; however, this does not mean they have been unaffected.
A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Nov. 2020 analysed an outbreak of the virus in a rural Amish community in Wayne County, Ohio (here). This county is part of the Greater Holmes County Area Settlement, which is home to 36,955 people, the largest Amish population in the state.
The research found seven members of the community tested positive for COVID-19 in early May 2020. This prompted an additional 30 people to get tested, with 23 (77%) returning positive results.
“Social gatherings, important in Amish communities, likely contributed to rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the report said.
Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a global health expert and president of the risk and disease modelling organization Kid Risk Inc., told Reuters: “Everybody can be affected by the pandemic. The extent by which you are affected as an individual does depend on what is happening in your community and how much you are mixing but everybody is potentially infectable.”
She added: “The difference in the United States is that some may not be vaccinated at the same rates as we are seeing in other communities and for that reason, they would remain vulnerable.”
Vaccine hesitancy among Amish communities has been well documented (here , here and here). A study released in Feb. also concluded the Amish “may be at risk for low uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine” (bit.ly/2TEjX59).
Virus outbreaks among Amish communities have also been noted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, measles has been declared eradicated in the U.S. since 2000; however, outbreaks are still known to occur (here).
In 2014, the United States recorded its highest caseload of measles in two decades. A study by the CDC details how two unvaccinated Amish men contracted measles while travelling, along with the subsequent epidemiological response (here) (here).
“We have, in the United States, seen outbreaks of Polio and Measles historically in the Amish community despite very high vaccination rates in the rest of the country and that’s also true in the Netherlands where the under vaccinated religious populations have been susceptible to outbreaks,” Thompson said, “It would be a mistake to think that they are somehow protected.”
False. Amish communities have not been unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
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