Polk County Health Department Urges Vaccination Ahead of the Holidays

Published 12/18/2023 11:39:50 AM

(Des Moines, IA) – Polk County Health Department urges community members to get the updated respiratory shots they are eligible for ahead of holiday celebrations.

Low vaccine rates, combined with increasing levels of respiratory activity at the local, state and national level, could lead to more severe disease and increased healthcare capacity strain in the coming weeks.

Immunization rates:

  • 12.4% of Polk County residents are up-to-date with the COVID-19 Vaccine (Source)
    • Prior to August 31, 2023 68.5% of Polk County residents were up-to-date with the COVID-19 vaccine (Source)
  • 26% percent of Polk County residents got the updated flu shot (Source)
    •  40.25% is the average flu shot rate from the past 6 years (prior to 2023) for Polk County residents (Source)
  • 17% of adults age 60+ reported receiving an RSV vaccine (Source)

Iowa is now in a “medium” hospital admission level for COVID-19. And in the past 4 weeks, hospitalizations among all age groups increased by:

COVID-19 tracked in Des Moines Waste Water Surveillance, has also been at high levels the past four weeks.

“With the increasing hospitalization rates we’re seeing with respiratory viruses, we urge the community to get their updated respiratory shots,” said Helen Eddy, Director of Polk County Health Department. “Getting the updated shots will not only protect you, but protect our community’s health and prevent hospital overwhelm.”

Influenza, COVID-19, and RSV can result in severe disease, especially among unvaccinated persons. Infants, older adults, pregnant people, and people with certain underlying medical conditions remain at increased risk of severe COVID-19 and influenza disease. Infants and older adults remain at highest risk of severe RSV disease; it is the leading cause of infant hospitalization in the United States.

Vaccination for influenza, COVID-19, and RSV reduces the risk of severe disease, including pneumonia, hospitalization, and death. Vaccination for COVID-19 can also reduce the risk of MIS-C and post-COVID conditions.

Polk County residents are urged to get the updated respiratory shots they are eligible for. You can schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, visit your local pharmacy, or schedule an appointment with the health department at Please note, free COVID-19 vaccines are available for adults who do not have health insurance, or for whose health insurance does not cover the vaccine. Visit to find a free COVID-19 vaccine near you.

“And please remember to follow good hygiene practices this holiday season,” said Eddy. “They’re simple and easy to do, and they help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses in our community.

Hygiene Practices

  • Get the updated respiratory shots you’re eligible for
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cover your coughs with a tissue or arm sleeve
  • Wash frequently used surfaces often
  • Stay home when you’re sick and keep your kids home when they’re sick
  • Test yourself for COVID-19 if you have symptoms (Order free tests here)
  • Follow CDC recommended COVID-19 isolation guidelines
  • If you can’t stay home when you’re sick, wear a mask in public places


Polk County Health Department strives to create the conditions for all people to live healthy lives by engaging residents, reducing health disparities and attending to the needs of our most vulnerable families.

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