WASHINGTON - The committee that sets federal immunization policy recommended Wednesday that children ages 2 to 5 be vaccinated against influenza every year, expanding the "target population" for flu shots and inching toward the day when they will be recommended for everyone.

The government had previously recommended yearly flu vaccination only for children ages 6 months to 23 months. The new recommendation also includes "household contacts" of children between their second and fifth birthdays. This group - parents and older siblings not covered by other recommendations - outnumbers the children in the new recommendation.

Flu vaccination has been urged for years for everyone older than 50, with special attention to people older than 65 and those with chronic illnesses. Children older than 6 months with chronic illnesses should also be immunized.

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