Wednesday, March 05, 2008

All kids ages 6 months and up should get their flu shots, panel recommends

All kids ages 6 months and up, from teething toddlers to texting-happy teens, should receive an annual flu shot, according to a recommendation from a federal advisory panel.

The recommendation, if accepted by U.S. health officials, would mean that a lot more U.S. kids would receive their flu shots each year. Current guidelines only recommend annual flu vaccinations for children ages 6 months to 5 years, so the new recommendation — covering 6 months to 18 years — would apply to an additional 30 million kids.

According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the panel that made the recommendation last week, making sure more kids get a flu shot would mean fewer missed days of school and work and less need for antibiotics. Officials also hope that the increased coverage would have an "trickle-down effect" and help decrease the number of adult flu cases that occur every year.

The panel that made the recommendation — the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — are experts on the issue, and advise the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on national vaccination policies, such as what kinds of vaccines are needed and who should get them.

CDC is expected to adopt the new recommendation and begin promoting it sometime before the 2009-2010 flu season. That's just enough time for vaccine manufacturers to kick up production and for parents, kids and health care providers to get used to the idea.

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