Is It Safe for Your Children to Get the Flu Shot?

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An advisory panel today recommended all kids up to age 18 get the flu vaccine. Though the vaccine is already recommended for those 6 months to 5 years old, this new proposal is a huge expansion, affecting nearly 60 million kids.

Schools are the perfect place for kids to swap germs, and that's a big reason why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now targeting school-age kids.

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"[Children] are the great distributors. They run around the community, give it to mom, dad, Aunt Susie and to the new baby next door," Dr. William Schaffner at Vanderbilt University.

It's estimated that as many as 30 percent of school-age children come down with the flu each year.

At St. Mary's Elementary outside Chicago, more than half the students are out sick -- so many that on Tuesday administrators had to cancel school.

Some studies have suggested that vaccinating school-age children can reduce the spread of flu in the general population..

"So we think that vaccinated children should help those children; it should also help the families, and it may even help the community itself," said Dr. Anne Schuchat at the CDC.

The CDC expects an extra 7 million school-age children to get vaccinated next year because of the new recommendation, with the number of vaccinated children growing after that.

Between the injectable vaccine and flu-mist there should be plenty of supply, CDC officials said. But some people worry about adding a 12th vaccine to the 11 already recommended for children.

"Vaccinations are not risk free, and the flu vaccine is not a perfect vaccine either," said Dr. Bryan Jepsen, an autism expert.

Parents who spoke with ABC News today had mixed views. Some said that they, not the CDC, should dictate which vaccinations their children should receive, while others said their children received the flu shot religiously.

School-age children are not generally at high risk for dangerous flu complications, though 24 children have died from the flu so far this year -- half of them between the ages of 5 and 18.

"I think parents need to understand that flu is not just another winter respiratory virus. It is a life-threatening disease," said Dr. Carol Baker, a pediatrician.

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