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CDC Panel Urges Extending Flu Vaccine Coverage for Kids
Date:2/27/2008

Children up to 18 years of age would be encouraged to get inoculated

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health advisers recommended Wednesday that all children 6 months to 18 years of age receive annual flu shots.

Currently, the recommendation is that children 6 months to 5 years of age get vaccinated.

The recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices would cover an additional 30 million children, making it one of the largest expansions of flu vaccination coverage in U.S. history, the Associated Press reported.

The committee is recommending that the new guidelines take effect no later than the 2009-10 flu season, noting that many doctors have already ordered their vaccine for the 2008-09 season, the AP said. The panel's recommendations are typically followed by the CDC, which issues vaccination guidelines to doctors and hospitals.

The flu kills dozens of U.S. children annually, part of the estimated 36,000 Americans who die each year from the disease. So far this season, there have been more than 10 reported deaths of children. During the 2006-07 flu season, 68 children died.

Children tend to come down with the flu at higher rates than adults but usually don't get as sick. Health officials hope that extending vaccine coverage will also benefit adults, making them less likely to be infected by children.

"Influenza is a serious, deadly illness that needs to have a vaccination each and every year," said Richard Kanowitz, president of Families Fighting Flu, who lost a 4-year-old daughter to influenza in 2004.

Kanowitz's group was one of those supporting expanding the age range for flu vaccination.

In 2006, the CDC expanded the recommendation to include children up to 5 years old.

"We want the recommendation expanded, because we hear even to this day people say, 'T
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