updated 10/31/2003 4:38:33 PM ET 2003-10-31T21:38:33

A federal panel on Wednesday recommended that children ages 6 months to 23 months get a flu shot. Previously, such vaccinations were only encouraged.

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The recommendation by an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must still be approved by the CDC. If approved, the guideline would take effect next fall. Health officials believe it will affect about 6 million children in the age group.

Health officials said they believe more doctors will give the shots if they’re recommended by the CDC rather than just encouraged.

New data show that infants in this age group have as great a risk of hospitalization from the flu as the elderly, officials said.

Flu can cause pneumonia, respiratory problems, heart failure and inflammation of the heart muscle in infants.

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